THE DECEMBER AMENDMENT to canned lion regulations.

Many people naively believe that the South African government is attempting to close down the canned lion hunting business. This is simply not true. It gives far more credit to SA than is warranted. SA conservation is controlled by the hunting industry. The new TOPS (Threatened or Protected Species) regulations were an elaborate public relations exercise drafted in collaboration with hunting industry lawyers in order to give an impression that the 'ethical' hunters are distancing themselves from the unethical ones and banning unethical practices. It is a clever tactic: for the price of a few meaningless restrictions, public criticism of hunters can be deflected. However, the new regulations are not intended to stop the cruelty, or to ban canned hunting as commonly understood. There is not even any definition of canned hunting in the new regulations. Even though the new regs give no effective protection whatever to captive lions, it is worth mentioning the December amendment.

On 14th December 2007, the Minister published amendments to the new TOPS regulations, which come into force - belatedly - on 1st February 2008. Apart from a number of provisions designed to facilitate killing wild animals, such as providing for the shooting of damage causing animals from the air, in community land and on private land without the need to get consent from the landowner, the December amendment, surprisingly, excludes lions from the listed predators. Lions will therefore continue to be canned hunted with government approval. This leaves the lion hunting industry free to carry on with business as usual. Last year 2007, after the promulgation of the new TOPS regulations, more than 1000 lions were canned hunted in one SA province alone. (North-West)
So the very regulations which were touted by the Minister as banning canned lion hunting, no longer even apply to lions at all. The reason given is that the captive lion breeders have brought a High Court case against the Minister, challenging the validity of the new TOPS regulations. This could go on for years. It is a bizarre legal argument: in simple terms, the lion breeders say that their canned hunting operations were established with government approval and even promoted by conservation officials who are therefore, in effect, their accomplices. They argue that it would be unreasonable to allow accomplices to withdraw permits previously granted, thereby causing the lion breeders financial loss. This is an argument which exploits corruption and incompetence.

One of the restrictions which will no doubt be a central issue in the High Court case is the so-called two-year wilding rule. The industry is trying, through government regulation, to foist on to a gullible public the idea that if a lion is kept in a camp for two years where it has to substantially hunt prey animals for itself, it is no longer tame and therefore hunting it can no longer be termed �canned� hunting. This is obviously nonsensical: no intelligent person will swallow the argument that �if we pretend that the lion is wild, you can pretend that canned hunting has been abolished.�

If any reader wants more info, please give us your postal address, and we'll send a copy of our book 'Canned Hunting - A National Disgrace' which gives the background to current events.

Chris Mercer
Campaign against Canned Hunting
PO Box 356 Wilderness
6560 South Africa