Animal Welfare: The Necessity for Restructuring

Posted onLeave a commentCategoriesgovernance, legislation, welfare

In a recent article in Daily Maverick, Pierre de Vos highlighted the need for a revision of South African animal anti-cruelty law:

“I would suggest that it would be helpful to have an honest debate about the issue. If we have to justify why we wish to have some animals protected from cruelty while others are not, it might force us to rethink our attitude towards animals. In any case, whether such a debate occurs or not, it seems to me the time has come to review the outdated legislation on the issue of animal cruelty.” ~ Pierre de Vos,

I agree. The Animals Protection Act is currently under revision by DAFF (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests), and it is a timely process. The APA is hopelessly inconsistent in respect of it’s application to the different ways in which we categorise animals. The categories – ‘companion’, ‘food’, ‘performing’, ‘wild’, and ‘service’ animals are all regarded differently by humans, whether from a functional or ethical perspective. These categories are arbitrarily defined by human needs; the differences between a horse (companion/performing/service animal) and a cow (food animal) are negligible, but due to human commodification of animals, they are treated differently. That this is inconsistent should be obvious, The existing APA tries to be all things to all animals, and in so doing does nothing for any. Animal Agriculture breaks every provision in the APA on a daily basis, but the public looks the other way…

But there is also an urgent need to revise the structure of animal welfare in South Africa. Animal welfare organisations are under significant pressure, operating under greater demands from a diminishing resource base.

There are more than 250 animal welfare organisations in South Africa, of which 89 are SPCA’s, 6 are AACL’s and 5 are Animal Welfare Society members. The rest are independents, who have not become SPCA’s because they differ in principle with SPCA policies. The NSPCA, the governing and controlling body of the SPCA’s, is unwilling to work with other organisations and has historically insisted on taking a dominant and even dictatorial role in animal welfare issues in SA. Their influence on legislation carries disproportionate weight, partly because Government has informally granted them greater access to decision-makers and more input into issues pertaining to animal welfare.

At a time when vast parts of the country are without SPCA’s or any other animal welfare bodies, one would have expected the number of Societies to grow in order to meet the ever increasing animal welfare needs. During the past 10 years or so the number of SPCA’s has actually declined after closure of Societies. In some cases the NSPCA have taken over Management of local SPCA branches.. Large parts of SA remain without the services of any animal welfare organisation or body. Even the largest franchise, the SPCA, covers less than 30% of SA. Furthermore in addition to totally inadequate coverage, many bodies function without properly qualified staff or volunteers in respect of animal husbandry, first aid, or legal knowledge.

Many people incorrectly see the NSPCA as the “Head Office” of the SPCA franchise, as in large corporation structures. This has allowed the NSPCA to “boss” Societies when in fact the only mandate the NSPCA has is to inspect and monitor Societies to ensure that they function within the prescribed parameters of the SPCA Act and the Rules formulated under the SPCA Act.

At the same time, the pro-life independent sector has grown and continues to do so, with more and more organisations surfacing to combat what has now become a crisis in which the available resource base is still insufficient to meet the demands placed upon it by an ignorant and self-indulgent society. The growth of independent pro-life organisations is more than anything else an indicator that the SPCA philosophy and ethos is incompatible with animal-lovers’ aspirations and expectations. It has been a long time since the last SPCA was founded.

The NSPCA claims that it is the only organisation that may qualify and register Inspectors and this is partly due to a lack of knowledge on the part of other welfare organisations and partly due to their lack of resources. Other organisations have been known to employ and register inspectors, notably Barking Mad, Wetnose and AACL Up until now, there has been no law stating that only the NSPCA may train or qualify Inspectors.

In the Animal Protection Bill, gazetted 30 Nov 2107, which focuses on protection for animal in research and animal testing, there is a provision that is worrying:

5. Section 8 of the principal Act is hereby amended by the addition after subsection (4) of the following subsection:
‘‘(5) An officer contemplated in sub-section (1) shall have an inspector’s qualification recognised by the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals established by section 2(1) of the Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1993 (Act No. 169 of 1993).’’.

Section (1) states: If authorized thereto by writing under the hand of the magistrate of a district, any officer of any society for the prevention of cruelty to animals may in that district…
“any society for the prevention of cruelty to animals” means any welfare organisation; it is in small letters not caps so it does not refer to SPCA’s, as stated in de Vos’ article. The term was only specified to mean SPCA’s in the SPCA Act in 1993; a term cannot be made to apply retrospectively to legislation enacted 32 years before.
This additional provision means (implied by the word ‘shall’) that only an inspector qualification recognised by NSPCA may be an officer in terms of the Act. Not only is this anticompetitive and therefore unconstitutional, but also indicates the known NSPCA ambition to be the ‘head’ of animal welfare in SA.

By doing this, NSPCA is attempting to ensure that only inspectors trained by them will be qualified. I think this is a major problem in that it propagates the NSPCA mindset in perpetuity (the current training and qualifications are prejudiced in favour of the SPCA ethos), and reinforces the idea, in the public mind, that the NSPCA has authority over other welfare organisations. I would also argue that the current inspector qualification omits two important competencies; animal ethics and animal ethology.

The development and qualification of inspectors should be administered by an independent body. If all inspectors are trained and employed by NSPCA, then it is the organisations’ agenda that will be driven rather than the needs of the animals or the animal-loving public. The police should be independent of any organisation, in the principle of separation of the state and judiciary. The NSPCA is just an NPO. The fact that it is governed by an Act of Parliament does not confer on it any special powers; the Act is merely an internal governance document.

Why did the NSPCA develop an Act of Parliament in order to govern SPCA’s, given that the SPCA Act is nothing more than a governance document and has no application to other welfare organisations? Why was it necessary to promulgate an Act for an internal governance document? Was it created in mind of ambitions to be recognised as the legal governing body of animal welfare in SA? If it was, it must be opposed. It makes no sense to allow an organisation that is top-down, ‘power’ oriented, with an ethos that is demonstrably losing relevance, as well as a controlling mindset, to be granted greater influence and control over animal welfare issues.

In addition, why is Dr MM Mathonsi of the Directorate Veterinary Public Health, DAFF on the Board? Surely the Dept of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries, which supports the abuses of animal agriculture in SA, has an agenda in continuing their exploitation and abuse? Is the presence of a DAFF official not a conflict of interests? Dr Mathonsi heads up the Directorate Veterinary Public Health, which means his primary goal is to ensure human health and safety in the use (exploitation) of animals. The animals themselves are commodities and their well-being is instrumental in relation to the protection of humans; so whether they are in pain or suffering emotional deprivation is not a consideration. It seems a double standard to have a fox in the group overseeing the henhouse.

The exclusion of independents in issues pertaining to animal welfare such as legislation, policy, policing and roles also implies that all the thought leadership is contained within the NSPCA. Given the degree to which the SPCA franchise have been late adopters of innovations like the Internet and social media, and the fact that they do very little education and sterilisation, (no ‘prevention’, mainly reaction) they are arguably exactly the wrong type of organisation and culture to be given authority or a leadership mandate for animal welfare in South Africa.

Who governs the NSPCA and who inspects SPCA’s? Are they automatically above reproach? When allegations have been levelled at SPCA branches for negligence or cruelty, the NSPCA has closed ranks, and the issue has ‘gone away’.

Authority must vest in the community, not in an aging Dinosaur that is no longer in tune with the public ethos, which is cognisant of the sentience of animals and changing in respect of ethical consideration of animals.

It’s time for all organisations and individuals in SA with an interest in the well-being of animals to talk about restructuring the animal welfare sector. As it stands, it is not inclusive, coherent or consistent.


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On Human Supremacy

Posted onLeave a commentCategoriesethics
Why human supremacy is not a license to exploit

“To argue that we humans are capable of complex multifarious thought and feeling, whereas the sheep’s perception is probably limited by lowly sheepish perceptions, is no more to the point than if I were to slaughter and eat you on the grounds that I am a sophisticated personality able to enjoy Mozart, formal logic and cannibalism, whereas your imaginative world seems confined to True Romances and tinned spaghetti.” ~ Brigid Brophy, English novelist, Essayist

Some years ago, a teacher I worked with in an institution for children and adults with emotional or psychological problems, commented that the decisions she made were far more complex than those that any animal makes, and on this basis she denied the necessity to give nonhuman animals moral consideration.

In human society we allow those we regard as having diminished capacity greater leeway when considering their accountability for their actions; so people who have mental problems or have reduced cognitive capacity we regard as less culpable for the same actions than those who have normal abilities. We make adjustments for them. In addition, we modify our own behaviour in relation to them; they are not potential victims, but we make special allowances in the manner in which we treat them. We even create charities and fundraising initiatives to assist them and develop research and special technologies to help them cope and to reduce the effects of their malady.

Yet when it comes to nonhuman animals, we suddenly reverse this entire moral heuristic.

We now use their apparent diminished cognitive capacity as an argument for our exploitation of them, as if their inferiority justifies it. It’s hopelessly inconsistent to apply one rule in one case of diminished capacity and a different rule because the diminished capacity is expressed in another species. It means the discrimination is not actually based on an ethical principle; it’s based on the fact of their being a different species. We call this discrimination speciesism because if we’re honest, we change all the rules when it comes to crossing the species divide. It’s as if ethics suddenly became irrelevant.

We have seen the supremacy argument before – it was used to justify slavery, colonialism, apartheid and the holocaust. It’s not like it has a glowing pedigree.

There are some additional problems with this attitude, however. We assume our ‘superiority’ by virtue of our dominion over nonhuman animals, although dominion expressed by violent domination is hardly virtuous. We’re equating dominion with superiority. Using that logic, men are superior to women, large nations are superior to small ones, and people with money are superior to those without. Our superiority is selective. There are many ways in which nonhuman animals have superior abilities to humans; indeed, they have capabilities that enable them to sense certain signals from the environment that we know nothing of without special instruments. Some we are only now beginning to understand, like the fact that about 50 species navigate using magnetic fields. The more we understand nonhuman animal ethology, the more we understand that they can do things we’ve had to devise technology to emulate. Their inferiority is only apparent, and based on convenient selective criteria in order to justify exploitation of the animal kingdom.

There is also the matter of the supposed chasm between nonhuman animal mental functioning and our own.

“There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties… The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind. We have seen that the senses and intuitions, the various emotions and faculties, such as love, memory, attention and curiosity, imitation, reason, etc., of which man boasts, may be found in an incipient, or even sometimes a well-developed condition, in the lower animals.” – Charles Darwin, English scientist

The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, signed by prominent international group of cognitive neuroscientists, neuropharmacologists, neurophysiologists, neuroanatomists and computational neuroscientists, makes it clear that Darwin’s intuition was not misguided:
“The neural substrates of emotions do not appear to be confined to cortical structures. In fact, subcortical neural networks aroused during affective states in humans are also critically important for generating emotional behaviours in animals. Artificial arousal of the same brain regions generates corresponding behaviour and feeling states in both humans and nonhuman animals. Wherever in the brain one evokes instinctual emotional behaviours in nonhuman animals, many of the ensuing behaviours are consistent with experienced feeling states, including those internal states that are rewarding and punishing. Deep brain stimulation of these systems in humans can also generate similar affective states.

Systems associated with affect are concentrated in subcortical regions where neural homologies abound. Young human and nonhuman animals without neocortices retain these brain-mind functions. Furthermore, neural circuits supporting behavioural or electrophysiological states of attentiveness, sleep and decision making appear to have arisen in evolution as early as the invertebrate radiation, being evident in insects and cephalopod mollusks (e.g., octopus). The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that nonhuman animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviours. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”

To deny ‘consciousness’ in nonhuman animals is to deny it in ourselves. With regard to the capacity for pain and suffering, they are our equals.

There is also a malevolent aspect to our supremacy. When one understands that nonhuman intelligence is ‘different’ not ‘inferior’ then exploitation and its justification is based on little more than ‘might is right’. We are nothing more than bullies. It also means the notion of moral supremacy must be discarded, since what kind of morality justifies violence against those who are perceived as inferior? When humans adopt this attitude with regard to other humans, we call them ‘psychopaths’. Indeed, were I to victimise other humans on the basis that I consider myself cognitively superior, I would be censured, even ostracised, by other humans; after all, we frown on bullies. Except when we’re doing it to other species. It’s the worst kind of selective morality because we do so because we can, because no force acts against us. We are Dictators, and there is nothing benign about our dictatorship.

We pride ourselves on our cognitive ability. We say it separates us from the animals, and yet we avoid consideration of ethical principles with regard to nonhuman animals because doing so in this case conveniently enables us to satisfy irrational demands that are less about practical needs and more about self-indulgence based on historical and cultural preconceptions. In doing so, we are motivated by visceral triggers, not cognitive consideration; in short, we behave ‘like animals’. There is nothing ‘superior’ about this knee-jerk.

Perhaps a little more introspection, something most humans are not particularly adept at, would be appropriate, given the socio-economic and environmental effects of meat production and of course the significant neglect and cruelty of factory farmed animals as well as the meat industry’s effect on diversity loss in the wild.

Human hegemony is nothing to be proud of. It is most certainly a moral dilemma that requires consideration. To deny this is to abdicate our much-vaunted intelligence. To not engage with the dilemma is moral cowardice.

The Long-Term Effects of Wildlife ‘Use’

Posted onCategoriesgovernance, wildlife

Regarding wildlife as a commodity to manage sustainably has become part of our conservation protocol over the years and is often employed as a strategy to alleviate poverty. But how will this affect the environment we rely on for survival in the long- term?

On 20 December 2016, Sanparks published an article on their site citing that the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr BEE Molewa, has approved the rezoning of the Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area (MPA) to allow limited fishing by members of local communities. Prior to this the DEA has cited that one of its reasons for the move is that the Tsitsikamma has an unemployment rate of 50 percent. The announcement follows Sanparks’ move last year to open the Kruger Park to “culling” by local communities.

This example illustrates a growing trend to kill/cull/harvest wildlife in protected areas in South Africa in spite of the warnings made by scientists claiming that these moves will bring long-term environmental disaster. The approach allows for the exploitation of the protected reserves and abuse of the law as short term financial interest and greed (human nature) have shown to direct people’s actions in cases like this.

Wildlife as a commodity and our disconnect from nature

Since early civilisation, we have been physically moving away from nature. The rise of agriculture and our move out of rural areas into towns has separated us from our food source processes. We are out of touch with nature and our dependence of the planet as this crucial awareness falls outside of our daily lives

This disconnection is exacerbated by globalised consumerism, instant gratification and the manner in which technology shapes our current lifestyles.

In Southern Africa around 1652, when the Dutch arrived in the Cape, set up farms and then conducted an unprecedented slaughter on our wildlife, our relationship to nature changed drastically.

The late 19th century saw the passage of the first pieces of wildlife conservation legislation and the establishment of the first nature conservation societies.

Before the Dutch arrived in 1652, the indigenous people lived harmoniously with wild animals, learning from them about medicinal herbs and natural food sources. Their livestock was protected by using herdsmen and they shared their crops with the wild animals that came to eat from them. Living like this ensured that people were reminded daily of their important connection to nature and they respected other life forms as a result.

The objectification of wildlife and regarding it as a commodity was not born from African culture.

In his book, Isilwane the Animal, Credo Mutwa describes how African people did not see us humans as separate from nature in the past. He describes how African tribes respected nature and our interconnectedness with the Earth by holding wild animals as their totems – a system which served to preserve the environment and showed a clear respect for a healthy biodiversity. “The African people knew, just as the native American people knew, that if you destroy the environment, you will ultimately destroy the human race. A remarkable Tswana proverb states that, “He who buries the tree, will next bury the wild animal, and after that, bury his own ox, and ultimately bury his own children.”

This indicates that people were aware, even in ancient times, of the interdependence on all living creatures upon this Earth, and that if you harm one, you harm others and in the end, yourself.

Is the use of Wildlife Sustainable?

The concept of sustainable use has been pushed as a sound wildlife management tool which appears to work in theory. In practice however, it has involved far more “use” and not much sustainability. Sustainable use only works in the short term, bringing in its wake, long terms disastrous damage.

History has shown that it generally results in the over-exploitation and decimation of the species involved.

The sustainable use of wildlife can either be consumptive or non-consumptive:

Consumptive use:

The killing, trapping and capturing of wild animals for commerce (for ivory, the pet trade, biomedical research) or recreation (sport hunting, entertainment).

Non-consumptive use:

An activity that generates income without harming animals or removing them from their habitats.

Depletion of species used is almost always a foregone conclusion because of several factors, some being:

  1. The short term financial interest and greed (human nature) of the users.
  2. Inadequate scientific knowledge about wildlife populations
  3. The inability to predict the outcome of our attempts to manage wild animals with any degree of accuracy.

These factors and results have almost, without exception, characterised past efforts at consumptive management and the commercial use of wildlife species.

Examples of damaged wildlife populations

Treating wildlife as a commodity has resulted in damaged wildlife populations.

According to the IUCN, (September 2016) Africa’s overall elephant population has seen the worst declines in 25 years, mainly due to poaching. (

Poaching of rhinos for their horns has reached unprecedented levels. While ten years ago, a mere 25 rhinos were poached, the number poached in 2015 estimated at between 5,042 and 5,455 rhinos.

New surveys and estimates suggest that the lion has disappeared from about 80 percent of its African range and the pangolin (threatened with extinction) has become the most trafficked mammal in the world.

Damage-Causing Animals

Wild species that are perceived to be in competition with agriculture and forestry are generally painted as healthy and plentiful in spite of the fact that their populations are not monitored. The reason for this is to keep the real damage done to these species hidden from the public so that agriculture can appear to be justified in persecuting them.

In Southern Africa, “problem” species have historically been fatally injured and killed in exceptionally cruel ways – poison, gin traps, bow and arrows, dog hunting packs, barbed wire are some of many methods that have been used.

The Wild Dog – once perceived to be a “problem animal” or “damage causing animal”, has been exterminated from large parts of Africa and is an example of how a species that is not monitored, is plagued by misconceptions and is encouraged to be persecuted by legislation and ignorance can become highly endangered due to the message of disrespect conveyed by the consumptive use camp. Today the Wild Dog is one of the continent’s most rarely encountered animals. Other Southern African species that suffer similar effects as perceived “problem animals”, are likely to go the same way unless there is change.

The vervet monkey and chacma baboon are generally believed to be healthy due to that fact that they are “commonly” seen in certain areas but the damage caused to troop structures , and how this impacts on related ecosystems has not been taken into consideration. As a result those that work hands-on with these species report a dwindling in numbers and troop structure damage that has a ripple effect on future generations and all related systems.

Founded as the Botswana Wild Dog Research Project in 1989, the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust (BPCT) has expanded to cover all the large carnivore species in Botswana. It is one of the longest-running large predator research projects in Africa and one of only a handful of its calibre worldwide.

BPCT research on wild dogs has made it abundantly clear that the health and welfare of the entire predator population is a key indication of overall health of the ecosystem.

Preservationists and animal protectionists have begun to realise the importance of focussing not only on endangered species but on working towards a healthy biodiversity.

In his book Animals In Peril, ex chief executive, John Hoyt from the HSUS, says:

“Whales were supposedly sustainably exploited for decades under the careful scientific management regime of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) – until all eight species of great whales were pronounced endangered.

Sustainable use did not work with such developed North American resources such as grizzly bears, ducks, californian sardines, ancient forests, or just about anything else that has supposedly been managed, conserved, exploited , utilized or harvested on a sustained yield basis.

Not even white tailed deer which have thrived, can be considered an unmitigated management success. Creating and maintaining a “harvestable surplus” of deer has adversely affected other species, and has been achived by the removal of old growth forests and predators.”

The “Damage” Caused by Elephants Benefits Biodiversity

Although things may not look particularly pretty to the human eye does not necessarily mean that it is detrimental to all the life that is there. Studies showing environmental benefits conducted by elephants, that are often perceived to be environmentally damaging, illustrate how inadequate scientific knowledge about wildlife populations can be destructive to the environment. It has been noted that:

”Areas heavily damaged by elephants are home to more species of amphibians and reptiles than areas where the beasts are excluded” – (African Journal of Ecology).

“Elephants, along with a number of other species, are considered to be ecological engineers because their activities modify the habitat in a way that affects many other species. They will do everything from digging with their front legs, pulling up grass to knocking down big trees. So they actually change the shape of the landscape.” – Bruce Schulte

The elephants’ digestive system is not very good at processing many of the seeds that they eat. Their faeces are a great fertiliser – elephants are also able to rejuvenate the landscape by transporting seeds elsewhere. Scientists have concluded that difference in abundance and species richness in “damaged areas” was probably a result of engineering by elephants, generating new habitats for a diverse array of frog species.

Why we need a healthy environment to survive

The variety of life on Earth, its biological diversity is commonly referred to as biodiversity and the survival of our species is dependent on this.

“At least 40 per cent of the world’s economy and 80 per cent of the needs of the poor are derived from biological resources. In addition, the richer the diversity of life, the greater the opportunity for medical discoveries, economic development, and adaptive responses to such new challenges as climate change.” ~ The Convention about Life on Earth, Convention on Biodiversity web site.

How a healthy biodiversity affects you

Ecosystem services, such as

    • Protection of water resources
    • Soils formation and protection
    • Nutrient storage and recycling
    • Pollution breakdown and absorption
    • Contribution to climate stability
    • Maintenance of ecosystems
    • Recovery from unpredictable events

Biological resources, such as

    • Food
    • Medicinal resources and pharmaceutical drugs
    • Wood products
    • Ornamental plants
    • Breeding stocks, population reservoirs
    • Future resources
    • Diversity in genes, species and ecosystems

Social benefits, such as

    • Research, education and monitoring
    • Recreation and tourism
    • Cultural values

All living things are necessary for Biodiversity – sun, water, plants, insects, reptiles, mammals, soil, fungi and bacteria are some examples of these life forms. The variety of living things all act together to make the web of life work. Over time this variety has been dangerously reduced by one species – humans.

The consequences of this ensure that the present destructive events will continue until it is too late; unless we bring about serious, sustainable change.


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Wild Animals

The Scourge of Canned Hunting

Posted onCategoriesethics, hunting, legislation

In the last three decades South Africa has created a booming industry based on its wild animals. When this all began SA had the best intentions in the world – to conserve, protect and increase dwindling wildlife populations and promote eco-tourism. However, the wildlife industry grew rapidly and the good intent on which it was initially based – that is, to breed and supply excess wild animals to protected and conservation areas and eco tourism ventures – began to tip in favour of commercial trade as wild animals became profitably valuable and were supplied to a growing hunting industry. Over the past three decades more and more people have become involved in the wild animal business and this resulted in a huge gap being wedged between the eco tourism and hunting industries, with the latter becoming entrenched in unethical and inhumane conduct. Wild animals increasingly became commodities to be captured, transported, sold, hunted or exported.

It has since become more and more evident that the South African game industry is spiralling out of control. Hundreds of thousands of wild animals are being captured and sold for one reason or another every year and the industry has proved to be growing at an average annual rate of 5.6% since 1993. It is currently one of the fastest expanding sectors in the South African economy.

The Role of Money

To date more than $1.5 billion has been invested by private landowners in game farms, with the breeding of valuable species and hunting ranches occupying over 11 million hectares. A range of specialist services including insurance brokering, game capture units, auctioneers, specialist game breeders, agricultural and veterinary support services, wildlife consultants and helicopter services have been established to support this booming industry. It is estimated that together these services generate a turnover that annually exceeds $100-million.

Although the lure of financial gain is the prevailing incentive, this industry has gained support for its activities under the banner of sustainable utilisation regardless of how unethical and inhumane some practices have become (i.e. the hunting of captive bred lions and other species in enclosed small areas from where there is no escaping) and the industry’s ways are widely accepted and supported by the South African government. Unfortunately the dark side of this industry has begun to undermine South Africa’s credible standing as a principal country that concerns itself with the conservation of wildlife in the African continent.

As dismal as this reality is there is hope to end this horrific sport and it is with much thanks to a few dedicated individuals who tirelessly continue to fight against the government and the canned lion industry that was the inspiration for this second expose into this sordid, blood-thirsty dominion. These few people are doing amazing work to raise awareness to trophy hunting and the canned lion industry in order to save our majestic lions and other large game from this commercial bloodbath industry of hunters and breeders.

Gareth Patterson wrote: ‘For me and many of the people who contact me to offer their support, killing innocent animals for self-gratification is no different from killing innocent people for self-gratification. By extension then, trophy hunting -the repeated killing of wild animals – should surely be viewed as serial killing. Like the serial killer, the trophy hunter plans his killing with considerable care and deliberation. Like the serial killer he decides well in advance the ‘type’ of victim – that is, which species he intends to target. Also like the serial killer, the trophy hunter plans with great care where and how the killing will take place-in what area, with what weapon. What the serial killer and trophy hunter also share is a compulsion to collect ‘trophies’ or ‘souvenir’s of their killings. The serial killer retains certain body parts and/or other ‘trophies’ – ” …for much the same reason as the big game hunter mounts the head and antlers taken from his prey – as trophies of the chase.

Toothless Regulation

Chris Mercer, the founder of the Campaign Aginst Canned Hunting, explains:

“Canned hunting is where the target animal is unfairly prevented from escaping the hunter, either by physical constraints (fencing) or by mental constraints (habituation to humans such as being bottle-fed and hand-reared. By this definition, all trophy hunting and almost all sport hunting in South Africa is ‘canned’ to a greater or lesser extent”. According to Chris this is the reason for there being no definition included in the new Regulations – it is impossible to formulate a definition which addresses public concerns while at the same time cautiously avoiding the adverse impact this could have on the hunting industry, so a consistent definition has tactfully been averted. The Minister’s widely-publicised claim to have ‘banned canned hunting’ is therefore unfounded since no one is clear about what he is implying.

According to Chris Mercer if one carefully analyses the new regulations it reveals that canned hunting has not been banned at all – on the contrary, it has been legalised. The next step inevitably leads to the granting of self-regulations for the hunting industry. How does this apply in practice? Basically the hunting industry will comply with policies which will be monitored by the provincial conservation officials (the same people who have demonstrated their incompetence in the past of properly monitoring their ‘associates’ in the hunting industry). Compliance with superficial ethical standards of hunting has been shrugged off by an irresponsible government and ‘passed over’ to the very people who have caused irreparable harm to the animals, and who have shown that they are incapable of regulating themselves; namely the hunting clubs. These ‘hunting ethics’ (an oxymoron) originate with powerful international hunting role-players like Safari Club International (SCI), based in Reno, Nevada.

Chris further states that the majority of the world’s population is blissfully unaware of the large scale of slaughter, abuse and gross mistreatment of hunted animals worldwide, all of which are directly linked to the SCI. Every year SCI hands out prizes to the hunters who have shot the most animals during that year, along with a whole pageant of other rewards. For example, special prizes are awarded to hunters who have killed the most endangered species. Mr Mercer goes on to say that most people may regard these hunters associated with such an organisation as environmental terrorists rather than environmental conservationists.

In Chris Mercer’s opinion the new regulations effectively sacrifices SA wildlife to the mercy of an environmental terrorist-like organisation. As Hector Magome, spokesman for SANParks, said: “The protectionist mentality is irrelevant today – wildlife must be used to reduce human poverty otherwise we will lose our parks”. He is also skeptical of the ‘protection’ these regulations offer the animals and how it will be monitored and enforced is this retired advocate’s utmost concern since hunting takes place on private properties, out of sight of independent observers.

Canned hunting in the media

The Cook report revealed to a shocked audience the sinister world of canned lion hunting. Graphic images showed a mother lioness that was separated from her three cubs by an electric fence; she was the trophy hunt. In cold-blooded fashion the hunter took aim and fired his first shot. The impact of the bullet was so powerful that the lioness was lifted off the ground and thrown a few feet back. She did not die with this first bullet but instead tried to drag herself toward her three frantic and terrified cubs. The hunter took aim again and fired a second fatal shot. The impact threw her a few feet back again and this time the lioness died an agonizing death – in full view of her three bewildered cubs. This emotional and horrific scene caused such a furor of outrage and condemnation that South Africa was thrown into the media spotlight and was subjected to international scorn and scrutiny and the South African Embassy in London was inundated with phone calls and threats to act on such atrocities. Due to the immense pressure from the international world, but reluctant to lose income from foreign hunters, the SA government has since adopted a policy of condemning canned hunting in public and declared a suspension on this sport, but secretly allows it to continue unchecked in private.

Sadly, even after such a horrific expose this sport has never been completely banned in South Africa and it secretly continues to gain popularity amongst international trophy hunters; canned hunting is therefore alive and thriving in present day, no thanks to a government that is fully supportive of this lucrative industry.

In South Africa substantial profit is the only gain the canned lion industry presents and this is its justification for continuing one of the most cruel and unfair blood-sports that continues to exist. If one looks at the ‘benefits’ associated with this industry it is not hard to see why it is being backed by an unscrupulous government and is presently thriving. International hunters are determined to return to their respective countries with a bona fide African ‘trophy’ from this continent and are prepared to pay hundreds of thousands in (South) African currency to shoot and kill a rare, exotic species. For the amount of money these hunters are prepared to pay moral ethics, principles and values fall on the wayside for the poverty ridden countries on the African continent – home to most of the world’s endangered species.

Hunting is Conservation?

The hunting industry’s argument about protecting our wildlife is therefore inconsistent. Hunters also claim that they only shoot animals who are surplus or excessive to the carrying capacity of the land, or who are old or injured. They claim that their killing is done for humane and practical reasons, and that an untimely death by bullet or arrow is preferable to death from natural causes. Hunters are intolerant of anyone who invokes doubt about their so-called “ethics” or who dares to criticise or condemn their violent pastime. Anyone opposing the hunting/killing of innocent animals by hunters is vindictively labelled a “bunny-hugger”, “unrealistic”, “impractical”, “emotional”, “ignorant”, “humaniac”, or even a “terrorist” if one happens to be an animal rightist or animalist.

However, hunters cannot argue with science. Scientific facts presented after extensive investigations in 2004 further rebuff hunters claims. Research carried out by the Oxford University Wildlife Conservation Unit in Zimbabwe in 2004 revealed that the sport hunting of lions is having a potentially irrevocable effect on the region’s lion population. Research carried out in the Hwange National Park region (located in Zimbabwe) acknowledged the growing popularity of trophy hunting but cautioned that the socio-ecology of lions allows this big cat to be susceptible to severe exploitation by trophy hunters. The research revealed that since large trophy males are particularly sought after by sport hunters, commercial hunting is a selective entitlement with an irreversible impact on social behavior and demographics. In the wild the mature male lions compete for groups of females, with the fittest males dominating and passing on their genes.

Should disproportionate cropping of these mature males continue to occur the consequence would be that younger less experienced males, or males that would not normally have access to females, may have the power to take over a pride. Research also indicated that without natural selection taking place a situation may occur where sub-optimal genes are integrated into the population. Even though lion populations are able to recover swiftly from a one-off sub-optimal harvest, continuous removal of extreme numbers of dominant males are likely to affect lion ecology and social behavior and threaten the continued existence of these lion populations.

Furthermore, hunters settle for nothing but the finest, fittest and strongest specimens to kill. This is in direct contradiction to the role of the natural predators that hunt the old, disabled and unwary and in so doing preserve the healthy, strong genes of the respective predator populations. The unrelenting and unnatural killings by human hunters who only want the best specimens of any animal population or species will undoubtedly lead to hampering of the gene pool and can accelerate the rate at which a population or species becomes endangered or even extinct. No natural predator would behave in this manner unless in very unnatural and exceptional circumstances. Natural and balanced predator/prey relationships ultimately lead to healthy populations of both the prey and the predator species.

Although it was acknowledged by researchers that trophy hunters bring in revenue to the region they also pointed out that substantial revenue can be generated by adopting ‘alternative uses of wildlife’ including photographic tourism. Africa’s amazing and exotic species wildlife are after all more valuable alive than dead. Researchers concluded that alternative activities were found to contribute substantially to the economy and would be able to retain the benefit of sustainability. Although the survey carried out was focused on the Hwange region of Zimbabwe research indicated that these findings can be applied to other geographical and socio-economic regions which are similar in South Africa.

There are over nine thousand game farms in South Africa. Most of these are hunting farms. Over a million animals are killed for senseless, mindless pleasure every year by sport hunters. With regard to the trophy hunting industry, large numbers of targeted animals die – unfortunately their deaths are most often not instantaneous but slow, torturous and painful because cold-blooded trophy hunters do not want to break the skin on the head. A single shot or arrow to the heart is exceptional and rare; and naturally it is always the finest specimens that are targeted and hunted down. It is never the aged and infirm animals, as these hunters and breeders blubbering “sustainable use” would lead people to believe.

In the Kruger Park majority of the hunting takes place in the large conservancies which adjoin the western border, as well as where park fences have been dropped by SanParks officials to facilitate the hunting of Kruger Park animals. SanParks rangers are themselves allowed to hunt Kruger Park animals for their own consumption. This privilege is actually written into their employment contracts, shocking as it may sound.

Cub petting

Ethical tourists with good intentions and a genuine interest in conservation and environmental issues should be wary of resorts which allow cub petting. Cub petting often profits the canned hunting industry. Breeders rent out cubs to tourist facilities until such time the cubs become too big; when these lions are returned to the breeders they are grown out in captivity and thereafter hunted. There are dozens of sites devoted to hunting but this documentary will not expose the ones already openly advertising their hunting activities. The reveal is primarily aimed at alerting tourists to those resorts which purport to be ethical eco-tourist facilities yet contribute to the canned hunting industry, directly or indirectly; eg. the Rent-a-Cub business.

Since there are too many cub petting establishments in operation in South Africa, we will attempt to unearth as many of these unscrupulous farms as possible to inform and educate the unsuspecting public. At these institutions where lion cubs are used as petting objects it is more than likely that these same cubs will be trophy hunted as young adults.

Some of the farms listed do allow hunting, but not necessarily lion hunting and/or cub petting. So we plan on paying surprise visits to some of these shady establishments that openly advertise cub petting. If we are met with resistance and aggression by an establishment then we will most probably have stumbled upon one of the unscrupulous farms fronting as conservation establishments.

The purpose of this expose is to primarily encourage tourists and volunteers to direct tourism dollars to wildlife destinations where animals are genuinely cherished and protected from sport hunters. Many tourism resorts conceal their hunting activities to attract eco-tourists. This documentary will assist tourists in making an ethical decision when they choose a resort.

Listed below are tourist resorts where hunting (not necessarily lion hunting) or cub-petting takes place.



























SANYATI NATURE FARM – LOUWSBURG – This resort is a hunting farm but since it openly advertises its hunting activities on its website and CACH has agreed, at the request of the owner Mr Kobus Erasmus, to remove this from the list and to publish this explanation. “This facility does not hunt lions; the website advertises the hunting of ” vervet monkey, blue wildebeest, red hartebeest, common duiker, impala, bush buck, kudu, nyala, bush pig, warthog, common reedbuck and zebra.”    Source – CACH website

Cub Petting Facilities in South Africa (lions, tigers & cheetah):

Lory Park Zoo –

The Lion Park –

Sundown Lion Ranch –

Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve –

Seaview Lion Park –

Zebula Country Club & Spa –

Boskoppie –

Kwantu Game Reserve –

Tau Roara Lodge –

Inkwenkwezi –

The Farm Inn –

Addo Lion & Croc Park –

Cheetah Outreach –

Cango Wildlife Ranch –

Horseback Africa –

Letsatsi-la-africa –

Glen Africa –

Paws4Life Africa –

Aqulia Game Reserve –

De Wildt –

Tenikwa –

Bloemfontein Zoo –

Fiela Funds –

Predator World –

Hartebeespoort Dam Zoo –

Daniell Cheetah Breeding Centre –

Ukutula –

The Lion Park ( East London ) –

Shingalana Game Farm –

Moratuwa Game and Holiday Farm –,,2-7-1442_2135815,00.html

Leshoka Thabang Game Lodge –

Jukani Predator Park –

Lion’s Gate –

Kapama Game Lodge –

Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre –

Moreson Ranch –

Protea Hotel – The Ranch –

Protea Hotel Cristiana –

Oldenburg Lodge –

Siesta Guest House –

Amanzi Game Reserve –

Tshukudu Game Lodge –

Mahala View Lodge –

Abo Shamani –

With nineteen years of experience as a specialist guide and photo-journalist operating throughout Southern and East Africa, Ian Michler is well known and highly respected in the wildlife industry. Apart from being a photo-journalist and safari guide, Ian has also worked as a researcher and field coordinator on various natural history television documentaries for international broadcasters and annually contributes to tutoring a short course on eco-tourism and conservation at the University of Cape Town. In addition, he consults and does radio and television work, and does public presentations on topics related to his photojournalism. In 2005 he completed an in-depth report on canned hunting and the captive breeding of large predators for IFAW. He was also involved in the production of the film Blood Lions.

Ian’s findings in 2005:

1) Canned hunting is a component of trophy hunting and ultimately, that’s where the main efforts should be targeted – at questioning the conservation credentials and wildlife management contribution of trophy hunting – these can be made on both scientific and philosophical grounds. IUCN, WWF and the likes must be challenged on this.

2) Government and the professional hunters associations are ultimately to blame as they have allowed the industry to flourish – hunting industry must be made accountable for what is taking place.

3) The breeding programmes of wild animals are behind the canned hunting industry – will discuss what takes places on these farms – everything is in contravention of all recognized conservation principles, esp the CBD.

4) The domestication process that is taking place, which undermines the very basis on which trophy hunting is supposed to take place; that, big brave hunter comes to shoot dangerous and wild animals. We are in fact in the process of domesticating our wildlife and that has major implications.

The Current Status and the Future

With increasing pressure over the past few years from local animal rights groups an amendment of the regulations was made in December 2008 leading many people to naively believe that the South African government is attempting to close down the canned lion hunting business. This cannot be further from the truth. The December 2008 amendment to the new regulations surprisingly excludes lions from the list of protected predators. This blatantly spells out that lions shall continue to be canned hunted with the SA government’s 100% approval. In effect this allows the canned lion hunting industry carte blanche. In 2007, after the circulation of the new TOPS (Threatened or Protected Species) regulations, close to 1000 lions were canned hunted in the North-West province alone.)

One on the amendments added to the regulations was the two-year wilding rule and lion breeders are challenging the validity of this new regulation. Basically this is a convenient smoke-screen by the government because, as a result of this government regulation, the hunting industry is attempting to persuade a susceptible public that a lion which is kept in a camp for two years with readily available prey (goats, donkeys and horses) to hunt can no longer be considered tame and therefore hunting this lion can no longer be termed ‘canned’ hunting. This illogical and unintelligible reasoning by the hunting industry is ridiculous and insults the intelligence of its public. What the hunting industry attempted to do is manipulate the unsuspecting public into believing that if a lion can hunt its own food it is considered a wild animal and as such cannot be termed a canned lion; therefore this industry cannot be accused of carrying out a canned lion hunt on these predators.

More incriminating evidence continues to pile against the government. The government received a national petition with over 23000 signatures from South Africans who regard this sport as appalling and a national disgrace, as well as an online petition signed by thousands of potential international tourists who, in no uncertain terms, declared that they will never tour a country that institutionalizes cruelty to wild animals. Yet the SA government continues to steadfastly support this lucrative hunting industry. Why is that? Could it be the billions in revenue that comes into the country as a result of this booming hunt-to-kill industry?

In Africa, lions are present in a number of large and well-managed protected areas, and remain one of the most popular animals on the must-see lists of tourists and visitors to Africa. Most range states in East and Southern Africa have an infrastructure which supports wildlife tourism, and in this way lions generate significant cash revenue for park management and local communities and provide a strong incentive for wildland conservation.

Regional conservation strategies have been developed for lions in west and central Africa (IUCN 2006a) and eastern and southern Africa (IUCN 2006b). The West and Central African Lion Conservation Strategy focuses on three primary objectives to address threats that directly impact lions: to reduce lion-human conflict, and to conserve and increase lion habitat and wild prey base. The objectives of the Eastern and Southern African Lion Conservation Strategy are articulated around the root issues in lion conservation, including policy and land use, socio-economics, trade, and conservation politics. For example, the policy and land use objective is “to develop and implement harmonious and comprehensive legal and institutional frameworks that provide for the expansion of wildlife-integrated land use, lion conservation and associated socio-economic benefits in current and potential lion range.” The trade objective is “to prevent illegal trade in lions and lion products while promoting and safeguarding sustainable legal trade.” Both regional strategies share common priorities of conserving and restoring lion populations, improving management capacity, and increasing the flow of benefits to communities living with lions. These strategies should be used by governments to guide national lion action plans, policies and programs, and by the conservation community to guide their project development. By setting out common priorities to guide action on both national, community and landscape levels, the regional conservation strategies have the potential for broad and significant improvement of lion status and management.


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Wild Animals

The Necessity for Animal Ethics Reform in Southern Africa

Posted onCategoriesethics

Animals in the Southern African region suffer from ongoing exploitation, commodification, neglect and cruel abuse:

  • The increased poaching of rhinos, coupled with suggestions of legitimising rhino horn trade; threats to other endangered species including Giraffe, Cheetahs and many others.
  • Canned hunting of lions, the most reprehensible form of hunting yet devised, accompanies trophy hunting and illegal poaching as self-indulgence masquerades as conservation.
  • Overpopulation of companion animals and the increase in neglect and cruelty in that sector; inadequate legislation and policing; poor governance; insufficient resources, divisions and conflict regarding policies.
  • Poor treatment of working dogs in security companies, working donkeys and horses.
  • Continued abuse of animals as entertainment in illegal rodeos, greyhound racing, dog fighting and circuses.
  • Ongoing cruelty in the livestock, meat, egg and dairy industries. Invisible to the general public who seem to be blissfully unaware or wilfully ignorant, ‘food’ animal cruelty takes place behind closed doors.

What is meant by ‘animal ethics reform’?

Animal Ethics deals with the question of whether we should take nonhuman animals into consideration in our moral decisions, and the degree and manner in which we should.

Human evolution has included a progressively well-informed understanding of the mental and emotional status of nonhuman animals, and this progress has resulted in changes in human attitudes, policies and the treatment of nonhuman animals.

We believe that everyone has an interest in animal ethics reform, whether in our own homes, within social groups with which we interact, or in society as a whole. There are correlations between social evils and neglect and cruelty to animals, which are never good for any society. The benefits of increased ethical responsibility and the expansion of our compassion to other species far outweigh the sacrifices and costs.

How animal ethics reform happens

Reform takes place first in the minds of those who are informed and have the appropriate knowledge, who gain either scientific or philosophical understanding that implies or demands a change in ethical position and behaviour. Whether such reform then becomes part of an organisation’s policies or a nation’s legislation largely depends on the degree to which those possessing the knowledge then communicate it to others in a coherent and convincing manner.

It is structural reform that takes the longest to achieve; in many cases laws are entrenched that still embrace long-held preconceptions, and while the majority of the populace still hold those preconceptions, the probability that structural reform (changing of legislation to reflect progressive values) will occur is reduced.

It then becomes crucial for mature communication to take place. While protests and emotional rants and conflicts populate social media, there is very little in the way of in-depth, comprehensive debate in which substantive issues are explored, systematically examined, and conclusions reached pertaining to pragmatic solutions and their implementation.

Once this is done, it then becomes possible to disseminate these to the general public in a cogent manner in order to create buy-in and cooperation.

There has never been a time when the necessity for such collaboration has been greater or more urgent.


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