Imagine the elation I felt when I received an email from Ian Michler (special consultant and lead character in ‘Blood Lions’) saying he would grant me an interview for this blog. I proceeded to do the happy dance but abruptly stopped mid-shimmy realizing I’d have to re-watch the film and that’s when the nausea set in.
‘Blood Lions’ is a documentary that came out over the summer, immediately before the slaying of Cecil, and thus set off a collective firestorm as it depicts the despicable practice of canned hunting of captive bred lions in South African ‘predator farms’ with graphic realism. Vomit inducing scenes of an actual lion massacre are followed by the crew being banned from the premises (by a ‘gentleman’ about as charming as a sweeping typhoid epidemic) under a Tourette-worthy hailstorm of profanity is just some of the drama of the film.
Ian is a safari operator, specialist wilderness guide, consultant and environmental photojournalist. He has lived and worked across Africa for the last 25 years and has visited at least 20 predator breeding farms over the years – 6 of which were featured in the film. He has been researching breeding and canned hunting since the late ‘90’s. Captive lion breeding and canned hunting has existed in south Africa since the late ‘80’s but it wasn’t until the Cooke Report came out in 1998 that the world learned about it he says.
Here are some quick facts about the captive lion breeding farms in South Africa as it exists currently:
*There are anywhere between 6000-8000 large predators in these farms, the vast majority, possibly 7000, are lions.
*Every year between 800-1000 are killed in canned or captive hunts mainly by American trophy hunters.
*Thousands of volunteers and tourists flock to these farms believing the lie that these cubs are orphaned and will be released into the wild (also, the Earth is flat and Boy George abhors makeup and fashion forward headwear, but I digress).
As the impartial and thorough investigative journalist I fancy myself to be I have to ask Ian about those ‘conservation’ claims these farms trot out in response to the violent backlash the film has left in its wake. As I type the question I can almost feel him giving me THE LOOK. I’m very familiar with this look as it’s the same look my cat Leelu gives me when I offer her steamed asparagus – disbelief, disgust, disdain – you get the idea. His answer is not surprising: “In what way? Captive breeding has no conservation value – the lion facilities have no benefits for wild lions. Just ask any recognized conservation agency or lion ecologist if they are working with any predator breeder or lion facility and the answer will be no. They cannot be returned to the wild – none of the captive bred lions has any conservation value as they are tame, human-imprinted and genetically contaminated. None have ever been successfully returned to the wild.” BAM! That leaves only ONE reason for these abhorrent farms to exist: Trophy hunting. Ugh. Ian adds: “this is the 21st century and we regard ourselves as civilized people: there is no reason whatsoever to allow the breeding of wildlife for canned hunting to continue.”
I think it’s safe to say that if your hobby is to murder exotic wildlife you are two tacos short of a Fiesta Platter in full accordance with the DSM and need to have your head examined post haste. I can certainly guarantee that should I ever have the misfortune of seeing a stuffed lion or mounted rhino head in someone’s living room, I will get my skinny white ass out of there as fast as my bedazzled stilettos will carry me.
Thankfully Blood Lions is blazing a trail of truth across the world and has now screened in over 140 countries the most important being last week in the European Parliament. The audience was a mix of MEP’s, decision-makers, scientists, conservation agencies and a variety of other related NGO’s. Ian added: “it was an energized audience primed for political action and demanding change.” As a direct result the “UK government has undertaken to meet next week for a full debate on the conservation status of lions, including the role played by all forms of trophy hunting and Blood Lions has been invited to screen the film in both the Italian and Spanish parliaments next year. Further, the German hunting magazine ‘Jager’ will no longer allow the advertising or selling of any form of canned or captive hunts, nor will the Dortmund hunting show.” Perhaps best of all “there was a commitment from the MEP’s to ensure that Blood Lions would eventually be seen by the politicians of every state in the EU”. Ian is optimistic about a ban on importing lion trophies coming soon for Finland, Germany and the Netherlands. As we all know France has recently instated a ban following Australia earlier in the summer.
Of course these are measures taken to prevent the vile trophy hunters from bringing their stuffed corpses home to decorate their living rooms but what will it take to actually close the existing farms in South Africa? Ian: “Changing the legislation in a way that prohibits all breeding would be the first prize but if we can’t then we need to cut off the revenue streams by making sure people do not come to South Africa to hunt or pet cubs.” If you have not seen Blood Lions yet there are 2 upcoming screenings planned in early 2016 both at the Explorers Club in New York.
Let’s help the fantastic team behind ‘Blood Lions’ and spread the message far and wide to end this shameful practice once and for all.
The news just broke that the lawsuit filed against ‘Blood Lions’ by the predator farm Zanchieta (featured in the film) claiming they were misrepresented and is now as a result no longer being promoted by travel agencies for volunteering and day tourists has been dismissed and they’ve been instructed to pay Blood Lions legal costs.
Written by Ines Romero of Cecil’s Angels.