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The NSPCA has welcomed a decision by the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (Phasa) to review its policy on canned hunting.

This comes after an uproar over the shooting of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe.

The NSPCA’s wildlife protection unit manager, Ainsley Hay, on Wednesday said the move was a step in the direction but was disappointed it had taken the association so long to act.

A canned hunt is a trophy hunt in which an animal is kept in a confined area to increase the likelihood of a kill.

“They should have been side by side with us for many years,” Hay said.

She said the association was only considering a policy change because of the fallout in the wake of Cecil’s killing.

She said canned hunting was “out of control” and unregulated.

Nick Chevallier, co-director of Blood Lions a documentary on canned hunting screened at last week’s Durban Film Festival, said he hoped the association would become a watchdog to ensure proper guidelines and ethics were enforced in the hunting industry.

He said he hoped his documentary would make an impact against the canned hunting industry.

Chevallier said: “Even hunters will realise that they are hunting captured animals, not wild ones.”

Chris Mercer, director of the Campaign Against Canned Hunting (Cach), said a total ban without any exception was necessary.

He said hunting should be stopped immediately. Mercer said the conversation was “collapsing” like Eskom and said hunting was a threat to conservation.

“We’ve been warning about widespread public disgust at canned hunting for 16 years. For 16 years Phasa has been putting out propaganda that canned hunting was acceptable, and that the disgust was restricted to a ‘small group of animal rightists’.

“Suddenly Phasa feels that canned hunting is a clear threat to the survival of the hunting industry. So, Phasa suddenly discovers morality, and decides that canned hunting is no longer tenable. What a sordid commercial propaganda machine Phasa is,” Mercer said.

“Cecil (the lion) is the tip of the iceberg. It is very seldom that target lions die quickly or painlessly, especially in bow-hunting. Cecil’s death is the rule, not an exception. This squalid industry sells vicious cruelty to animals as a routine,” he said.

Mercer called for a forensic audit on Phasa to establish where money made from the lion trophy hunting business went.

“There should be a moratorium on all trophy hunting while government establishes a conservation regulatory and enforcement body which is competent and not corrupt,” he said.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokesman, Musa Mntambo, said the organisation also welcomed the decision to review canned hunting as the organisation was against the practice.

This comes after president of Phasa, Hermann Meyeridricks, said: “From my dealings with the media and the community, it has become clear to me that those against the hunting of lions bred in captivity are no longer just a small, if vociferous, group of animal-rights activists.

“Broader society is no longer neutral on this question and the tide of public opinion is turning strongly against this form of hunting, however it is termed. Even within our own ranks, as well as in the hunting fraternity as a whole, respected voices are speaking out publicly against it.”

At the beginning of July it is believed that American dentist Walter Palmer, paid £35 000 (R688 651) to kill a lion with a bow and arrow. According to The Telegraph, Palmer said: “I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favourite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt.”

Twitter reaction

The reaction to Cecil’s killing was full of anger with celebrity Sharon Osbourne saying: “#WalterPalmer is Satan. I don’t know how anyone could go to this man for dental services after this. He is a killer. Beware!”

Katherine Schwarzenegger, daughter of Arnold Schwarzenegger, said: “Do you feel like more of a man after killing a beautiful creature like this?! Heartbroken” and former boxing champion, Lennox Lewis, saying: “What difference does it make if the lion was famous or not? Trophy hunting is a very sick pastime.”