Animal activists and conservation bodies have declared “a victory for lions” following a number of ground-breaking decisions that could lead to the collapse of captive-lion breeding and canned hunting in South Africa.

This week the Professional Hunters’ Association of SA voted to distance itself from captive-bred lion hunting until the SA Predators Association could prove the conservation value of the practice to professional hunters and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

This followed the announcement by Matthias Kruse, editor of Germany’s leading hunting magazine, that, as of next year, Germany’s leading hunting show would no longer allow the advertising or sale of any form of canned or captive-bred hunts.

According to insiders at the association’s annual general meeting, battle lines were drawn in the lead up to the vote this week.

There were 147 votes in favour of the association distancing itself from canned hunting.

There are between 6000 and 8000 lions in the captive-predator industry, most of them kept in the Free State, North West and Limpopo.

Australia banned the importing of lion trophies in February, when Environment Minister Greg Hunt sponsored legislation banning all imports of lion body parts.

Hunt called South Africa’s canned-lion hunting industry “cruel, unethical and barbaric, and definitely out of step with 21st-century thinking”.

Linda Park, Johannesburg director of Campaign Against Canned Hunting, said: “This dreadful industry, which has nothing to do with conservation, has been a blight on the country and has tarnished South Africa’s image in the eyes of the world.

“Lions are firmly in the public eye at the moment.”

Andrew Venter, Wildlands CEO and executive producer of the documentary Blood Lions, hailed the decisions as “milestones”.

Pieter Kat, of Lion Aid, a UK animal rights organisation, said that France would no longer allow hunters to bring home lion hunting trophies.

“This is excellent news. France ranks high among the EU member states for the importing of such trophies, ” Kat said.