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The Journal of the WILDCAT CONSERVATION LEGAL AID SOCIETY is published by the WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society, Washington, DC. Copyright Š 2010 All Rights Reserved.

Journal of the WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society, Summer 2010, Vol. III


NOTA BENE The Journal of the WILDCAT CONSERVATION LEGAL AID SOCIETY (Journal) is published semi-annually by the WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society. The Journal provides a unique forum for professionals and scholars to analyze and comment on the issues affecting wildcats around the world, reflecting the perspectives of all disciplines including law, education, medicine, science, philosophy, religion, humanities, social science, and art. Information on current topics, submission guidelines, and deadlines is available on our website at: The Journal is reviewed by the Board of Directors of the WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society and by our Legal Editor. Research, commentaries, opinions, views, and content expressed and contained in the articles published in the Journal are those of the contributing authors and not of the WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society, its Board of Directors, or staff. No compensation is paid to the authors in exchange for publication. The Journal is published in a specialty-licensed electronic format. Disseminating this feature in any manner is strictly prohibited. Disseminating the Journal in whole or part and reprinting or republishing it on the Internet or in any other form is also strictly prohibited. Queries related to reprinting and republishing articles contained in the Journal should be sent to Soft-bound copies of the Journal are available via a yearly subscription (two consecutive volumes) for $50.00US. Subscriptions may be purchased on our website or by mailing a check to WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society, P.O. Box 65495, Washington, DC 20035.


Journal of the WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society, Summer 2010, Vol. III

Journal of the WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society, Summer 2010, Vol. III




Journal of the WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society, Summer 2010, Vol. III

Journal of the WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society, Summer 2010, Vol. III


















Journal of the WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society, Summer 2010, Vol. III



PREFACE She had made people start to query the morality of keeping animals in captivity, in zoos and even more so in circuses. The essence of Elsa’s story was her freedom.1 The story of Born Free, written by Joy Adamson, recounts the reintroduction of a hand-raised lion cub, Elsa, into the wild. In February 1956, George Adamson was a game warden in northern Kenya who unfortunately shot and killed a charging lioness. Subsequently, George and his team discovered three tiny cubs which they brought to Joy. When the cubs grew into adult lions, two were taken to the Blydorp Zoo in Rotterdam and the smallest one, Elsa, the Adamson’s kept. They both agreed that Elsa should not end up in a zoo, and began to plan her education for life in the wild. “Despite all my years as a warden and my particular interest in lions, I had no real knowledge about how to set about our self-appointed task. So far as I could discover, literally no one had attempted such a thing before. It would have to be a program of trial and no doubt, errors; and we would have to start soon in the bush.”2 At the time Born Free was published, wildcats continued to be taken out of the wild for commercial purposes and captive breeding within zoological institutions began. While public opinion in the late 1960s turned against taking any more wildlife out of the wild, there was no ethical debate with respect to breeding the cats already in captivity. The justifications for captive breeding include saving the species from extinction, enhancement and survival of the species in the wild and public



GEORGE ADAMSON, MY PRIDE & JOY 290 (Simon & Shuster 1987).

Id. at 85-87.

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education.3 Despite these noble endeavors, breeding wildcats in captivity has not taken the pressure off the wild populations; in fact, wild populations are near an irreversible low and the captive wildcat population has grown exponentially. The practice of captive breeding and holding wildcats in captive environments solely for commercial purposes raises a number of important ethical considerations and questions. These include continued habitat loss and decline in wild populations, the ability and success of returning captive-bred wildcats to the wild, and the placement and disposition of surplus animals. Questions also need to be asked as to whether the federal and state agencies responsible for implementing and enforcing the laws with respect to the justifications for captive breeding, ownership, and use in commercial venues is actually being done considering that no single agency or coalition of federal and state agencies know how many captive wildcats (native and non-native) are in the U.S., where they are located, by whom they are owned, and where they ultimately end up. 4 The ethical issues involving captive wildcats range from their use in entertainment: including films, television, and circuses; to zoological parks, sanctuaries, breeders, dealers, surplus animals, pets, research, cloning, reintroduction, canned hunts, farms, trade in parts and products, fundraising activities including the use of “illegal resources� to fund ex situ and in situ projects, and captivity itself. How do any of these environments and activities actually help to save the species from extinction, enhance or increase their survival in the wild, or provide bona fide public education? Are the means justifying the ends? Did it ever? Have we lost sight of what the end is or was supposed to be? Have we blindly accepted the practices of captive breeding and commercial trade?





The Journal, Volume III explores ethical issues involving captive wildcats related to: 1) their use in the field of entertainment and documentary films and programs; 2) the arguments for and against captive breeding of lions solely for use in canned hunts; 3) a commentary on the human consumption of lion meat in the U.S.; 4) an account on the ramifications of rehabilitating captive and injured wild caracals; 5) the ethical and practical considerations of euthanasia; and 6) an artist’s rendering of an adult tiger that was rescued from an abusive environment as a cub. Tragically, in the 50 years since Elsa’s death, our society and our private lives have shifted from a moral ethic code whether derived from religion, philosophy or nature in which to base and make our cultural, lifestyle and livelihood choices; to what is legal as a moral guide or compass; to contemplating and engaging in criminal activity especially when the chances of being caught are minimal, and even if caught, penalties may not be enforced and even if the penalties are enforced and imposed the penalties are insignificant when compared to the monetary gained derived from the activity. We have created a society of ego-driven individualists who view themselves as superior to all others and the law. Some of these individuals are in positions of authority and are entrusted with the responsibility to not only enforce the laws but also are supposed to protect our natural resources, (i.e. the gulf oil spill). Yet all of us are in a reaction mode instead of proactive mode with respect to global climate changes, the race for oil, saving the remnants of wild lands and wildlife and the quest for alternative energy sources. This reactionary mode has resulted in the “green” movement but will we unite in this global initiative and continue to do what is necessary, or is it just a passing fad? Collectively we seem to have an attention span of roughly a minute and a half, and then we go back to our normal over consumptive behaviors because we’ve become addicted to instant gratification—everything has become “On Demand.” The latest environmental push is in dire need, but because we may not see in our lifetime the actual return on our investments and the sacrifices


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we need to make, will we continue? Sometime, somewhere, somehow we lost the sense of doing what’s right just because it is the right thing to do. Making real personal sacrifices solely because it is right regardless of whether we directly receive anything in return. We are all just passing through; it is not ours to consume and destroy without regard for the future. Knowing that, what we do or don’t do now will affect future human generations as well as wildlife and our natural environment and that in and of itself should be enough; ought to be enough. “The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”5 The notion that I am just one person and I cannot possibly make a difference is a fallacy. Collectively it does make a difference but it will and does require all of us to do our part and then and only then will we be able to implement the changes that are so desperately needed. “It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.”6 LISA ANN TEKANCIC, ESQ. PRESIDENT WILDCAT CONSERVATION LEGAL AID SOCIETY

5 6

Albert Einstein Robert F. Kennedy

Audience Deception and Animal Abuse: Wildlife Filmmaking and Game Farms


AUDIENCE DECEPTION AND ANIMAL ABUSE: WILDLIFE FILMMAKING AND GAME FARMS Chris Palmer† and Peter Kimball†† American University, Washington, DC As nature writer Bill McKibben once said, the most popular documentaries consist of “big cats alternatively mating and killing each other.” The recent success of nature and wildlife themed programs both on television and in the movie theaters has led to an increased pressure for exciting images and high ratings. Desperate to get footage of wild animals, many filmmakers are all too willing to cut corners and deceive the audience by not shooting in the wild but in game farms. These artificial enclosures with captive animals play an enormous role in nature filmmaking, and yet—while they do offer some benefits to wildlife—they often represent the most deceptive and abusive aspects of the film industry. Film always involves a certain degree of artifice, whether actors portraying fictional characters, editors cutting shots together out of sequence, or computer imaging used to create advanced special effects. Even documentaries require subjective editing; while all the footage might represent an actual occurrence, the choice of which footage to include †

Chris Palmer is the director of American University's Center for Environmental Filmmaking and author of the Sierra Club book Shooting in the Wild: An Insider’s Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom.

†† Peter Kimball is an independent filmmaker and graduate student at American University.

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necessarily shapes the tone of the final film. However, while audiences have no expectation of reality from the average Hollywood blockbuster, they are much more demanding when it comes to documentaries, and all the more so with nature films. The entire appeal of nature films to much of the audience is precisely that they offer a truthful, accurate look into the seldom seen world of wildlife. When films and television programs market themselves as being real depictions of animals and their habitats, they have a responsibility to maintain that truthfulness. However, this is made increasingly difficult with the current state of nature filmmaking. Communications professor and former National Geographic filmmaker Maggie Burnette Stogner describes the industry by saying, “The budgets have fallen, leading to budget and time pressures that virtually force filmmakers into fakery, deception, staging, and provocation, including baiting and luring wildlife out of hiding, faking scenes and interactions between wildlife, and forcing wildlife behaviors.”1 Stogner maintains that all filmmakers will admit to feeling this pressure—and many admit that they’ve succumbed to it. A common deception in wildlife films involves the staging of behaviors and situations that would rarely happen in the wild. For example, many films on grizzly bears make them seem incessantly ferocious. In truth, these animals spend most of their time in the wild quietly minding their own business and rarely charge people without provocation. The “ferocious” shots are obtained with trained bears conditioned to snarl on command. The audience usually has no idea it is being deceived.

1 “Budget and time pressures that force filmmakers into fakery,” email communication from Maggie Burnette Stogner to author (June 29, 2010) (on file with author).

Audience Deception and Animal Abuse: Wildlife Filmmaking and Game Farms


Game farms are businesses that make some of these deceptions possible. The farms profit from keeping wolves, bears, bobcats, wolverines, tigers, deer, coyotes, lions, and many others animals in captivity. The farms customers range from still photographers who need pictures for hot-selling calendars to filmmakers working for the BBC, National Geographic, and Discovery. Most people watching wildlife films think they are observing natural behavior in the wild. But sometimes a filmmaker is using game farm animals to deceive them. Mark Wexler, editorial director of the National Wildlife Federation magazine National Wildlife, insists that every photo he publishes of captive or controlled animals is clearly labeled as such. That works well for a magazine but not for a film where you have to figure out how to be honest about your methods without interrupting the story. In the film Wolves, executive producer, Chris Palmer, the credits stated, “Sections of this film were made possible by employing captive wolves. This reduces stress on wild populations that would otherwise be affected by prolonged or intrusive filming requirements. No animals were harmed during the production of this film.� There are two major problems with using disclaimers like this. First, few people will ever read it. Most of the audience will leave the film assuming that the wolves were filmed in the wild. Secondly, it is very unclear whether animals were harmed or not. Presumably, the filmmakers did not themselves cause the animals any harm. However, their usage of game farms could have made them complicit in the long-term abuse of wild animals kept in captivity. Game farms vary dramatically in their quality and in the care given in providing for the welfare of the animals. Wildlife filmmaker Beth Davidow uses game farm animals occasionally although she acknowledges the great variation among farms. At the Triple D game farm in Montana, for

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example, the owners “care as much for all of their animal charges as you or I would a beloved pet dog or cat. Baby animals, which are purchased from captive breeders and never taken from the wild, are hand raised, often inside the house. When an animal reaches the end of its modeling career, the owners of the Triple D game farm take care of it until the end,” she says. But at another game farm, whose name Beth will not reveal, she watched an animal trainer repeatedly strike a bear with a stick because the bear would not perform. Many game farms are like this latter one: merely crude storage facilities for the wildlife media industry. Wildlife photographer Tom Mangelsen refuses to use game farms to obtain his awardwinning images. He argues that game farms disregard the welfare of animals in order to make a profit.2 He worries about the loss of respect cinematographers and photographers will suffer once the public finds out about game farms’ role in the filmmaking business. Not only are the cages where the animals spend most of their lives small and uncomfortable, but many animals are shipped cross-country in tiny tarp-covered cages pulled by trailers. The animals are forced to “endure the sounds and smells of each other, but also the sounds and smells of tires, interstate highways, and big cities,” Mangelsen says. “The emotional stress from the noise, the smells, the darkness, and natural predators in cages being stacked together is unimaginable.” Animals that don’t cooperate often are punished with electric cattle prods or other crude disciplinary devices. For example, when an animal is performing for a client, piano wire might be tied around its neck and then jerked to elicit the 2

See THOMAS MANGELSEN, Point of View: Game Farm Photography, (“Game farms disregard the welfare of animals”) NATURESCAPES (January 19, 2009) available at

Audience Deception and Animal Abuse: Wildlife Filmmaking and Game Farms


desired reaction. Mangelsen argues that to support game farms is “to deny that wild animals feel pain, suffering, joy, and fear.� However, many filmmakers believe game farms serve an important purpose. While Davidow was sickened by the treatment of animals at one game farm, she believes that this kind of unethical behavior is rare. Besides, she argues, game farms are necessary. They offer a useful service to broadcasters, filmmakers, and photographers and help educate the public about wildlife—all without chasing or otherwise harassing animals in the wild. The greatest benefit of game farms is that they limit the amount of time filmmakers must spend encroaching on the natural habitats of wild animals. While filmmakers have a responsibility to serve their audience, they also have a responsibility to leave animals in peace and refrain from harassing them. By using game farms, a select group of captive animals can be filmed again and again, thus leaving wild animals free from the imposition of film crews. However, the low standard of animal care at most game farms makes them still an untenable solution. Unfortunately, few good alternatives exist to sourcing captive animals from game farms. A handful of nonprofit sanctuaries and humanely run zoos allow filmmakers to work with their animals to get close-up shots, always within the confines of those venues. There are private trainers who raise animals, such as bears, for both educational and entertainment purposes; in practice, however, their operations often differ little from game farms. A few filmmakers have gone to great efforts to raise animals specifically for filming, so they can be acclimated to humans and cameras from birth, as did the makers of Winged Migration. But that raises a tricky question: what happens to the animals after filming? The only conscientious answer is that they should be donated to well-run sanctuaries committed to their welfare.

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One larger issue is the lack of consistent, rigorous regulation concerning wild and exotic animals. The filmmaking community should take part in an ongoing, open debate about ethics and practices in this area, and actively seek better solutions in cases where animals cannot or should not be filmed in their natural state. Another important consideration is the types of animals being filmed. It is one thing to raise or temporarily capture insects, reptiles, or even birds and small mammals for filming. Dealing with large, powerful creatures such as wolves, wolverines, bears, or leopards is quite another. There are no simple answers here, but the questions need to be faced head on.

Countering the Moral and Ethical Argument for Canned Hunting of Captive Bred Lions in South Africa 7

COUNTERING THE MORAL AND ETHICAL ARGUMENT FOR CANNED HUNTING OF CAPTIVE BRED LIONS IN SOUTH AFRICA Richard Hargreaves† Plymouth, Devon UK Abstract Captive breeding of lions in South Africa for use in so called ‘canned hunts’ has been stated to be “...a conservation tool as it removes some of the pressure on the selective hunting of wild lions.”1 However, in addition to the standard ethical arguments against such practices, the significant risks for wild populations created by the South African captive lion breeding/canned hunting industry, far outweigh any benefit the industry could provide and completely rules out its utilization as a conservation tool or even it being acknowledged as such. †

Richard Hargreaves, LLB, F.Inst.L.Ex, Director of the South African NGO Campaign Against Canned Hunting ( For this article he considered a common sense contrast of the trends apparent from the data, with the facts prevalent in and around South Africa at the time, to lend itself towards the conclusions set out herein. It is hoped that this article may create an impetus for more in depth research by other professional wildcat scientists and conservationists to ascertain if these conclusions are as sound as he believes them to be. Acknowledgements: With grateful thanks to Professor Craig Packer, Kristin Nowell, Paul Hart, Chris Mercer, Will Travers, Chris Draper and Shelley Waterland. (RH) 1



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Canned Hunting - Overview The ‘canned hunting’ of captive bred lions in South Africa (also referred to as the ‘managed hunting’ of ‘high fenced lions’) is the practice of shooting captive bred lions in enclosed spaces where the lions have no ultimate means of escape. More often than not this is done for the purpose of stuffing the carcass for display as a trophy. The practice is described as ‘canned hunting’ because the kill is said to be ‘in the can’ owing to the 100% certainty of the lion's eventual death. The lion breeders and/or canned hunt operators, who can be one and the same in some instances, ensure this 100% success rate by imprinting the captive lions towards humans (so they may even approach the hunter thinking they are bringing them food) or even by drugging the lions to make them easier targets. As has been explained recently, canned hunting continues lawfully in South Africa to this day.2

Canned Hunting as a Conservation Tool In February 2007, the South African government published the final version of its Threatened and Protected Species (TOPS) Regulations against a backdrop of immense media reporting that the Regulations would ban canned hunting. But, aside from the fact that the Regulations do not even apply to lions at this time,3 was passing Regulations to ‘ban canned hunting’ the right move for the South African government to take in the first place? What if the practice really could have some practical benefit in reducing the hunting pressure on the few remaining populations of wild lions? Since there are so few wild lions left, could the ends really justify the means? This is what the South African captive lion breeding/canned hunting industry has been trying to convince 2

See R. HARGREAVES, Canned Hunting of Captive Lions NOT Banned in South Africa, CAT NEWS 52 (2010); and R. HARGREAVES, Canned Hunting: Part III, WILDCAT ADVOCATE 4 (March 2010), available at 3 Id.

Countering the Moral and Ethical Argument for Canned Hunting of Captive Bred Lions in South Africa 9

people of for over five years—that the ends do justify the means and that canned hunting of captive bred lions is a conservation tool. On April 6, 2005, the South African Minister for the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Martinus van Schalkwyk, announced that he was appointing a panel of experts to advise and report to him on, amongst other matters, the canned hunting of lions in South Africa.4 At a public hearing before this panel in August 2005, a presentation on behalf of the lion breeders stated as regards to the canned hunting of captive bred lions that: “This activity is by all means a conservation tool as it removes some of the pressure on the selective hunting of freeranging lions.”5 This statement was backed up at the same hearing by Dr. Dewald Keet who has over 20 years of experience working with lions in the Kruger National Park. In a document and presentation that Keet prepared, on behalf of the North West Lion Breeders & Hunting Association, he stated that: “The captive breeding and hunting of such lions (“High Fenced Lions” or “Managed Hunting”) is (emphasis added) a conservation tool as it removes some of the pressure on the selective hunting of wild lions.”6 When, in 2006, Minister Schalkwk published the draft TOPS Regulations over a hundred South African lion breeders came together and formed the South African Predator Breeders Association (SAPBA), incorporating the North West Lion Breeders & Hunting Association within their membership. In their comment on the draft TOPS Regulations dated June 19, 4 Draft Release, South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Report to be received from panel of experts (Oct. 20, 2005), available at 5 See Lion Hunting: An attempt to attain enduring sustainable utilization, presentation to the South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (2005), available at 6 KEET, supra note 1.


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2006, with regard to there not being enough wild male lions to meet demand from trophy hunters, SAPBA stated that: “surely, breeding lions in captivity is an answer to this dilemma? If wild lion populations are under pressure, captive breeding could fill the gap.”7 On May 4, 2007, SAPBA launched a legal application asking the court to set aside or amend a number of the TOPS Regulations. SAPBA relied heavily upon the ‘conservation tool’ line of argument in their application at first instance, supported by Dr. Keet in affidavit evidence, and they have since placed equal reliance upon it in their appeal which is unlikely to be decided before 2011. Just prior to commencement of proceedings, in a letter dated April 15, 2007, Dr. Keet stated as a common sense position that: One third of lions that are being hunted on the continent of Africa (approx. 1000) per annum are captive bred (approx. 300). This implies that the industry is actually protecting one third of free-ranging endangered adult male lions in Africa per annum! Is that difficult to understand? When the captive bred portion is removed less than 15 lions would be available for hunting in RSA (Republic of South Africa) every year.8

For clarification purposes, it should be noted that the only ‘free-ranging endangered adult male lions in Africa’ are in West Africa where the lion is classified as ‘Regionally Endangered.’9 Despite sound arguable grounds that lions ought to be listed as endangered, the remainder of the lions in Africa were not in 2007, and are not in 2010, officially listed as Endangered on the IUCN

7 See South African Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Comment on the draft regulations relating to listed threatened and protected species (June 6, 2006), available at ON THE DRAFT REGULATION 19-06-06.pdf. 8 Letter from Dr. Dewald Keet to Rossouws attorneys, (April.15, 2007), available at 9 H. BAUER & K. NOWELL, Endangered Classification for West African Lions. CAT NEWS 41, 35-36 (2004).

Countering the Moral and Ethical Argument for Canned Hunting of Captive Bred Lions in South Africa 11

Red List of Endangered Species—lions have ‘Vulnerable’ status, having last been assessed in 2008.10 On June 19, 2010, I accessed the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) CITES trade database and, against six African countries including South Africa, applied the following search parameters: “1999 – 2008 / Exports to: All Countries / Genus: Panthera / Terms: All / Sources: All / Purposes of trade: All /.” The ‘Gross Exports’ reports that were subsequently generated gave the official figures for exports of lion ‘trophies,’ and a further search showed how many of the lion ‘trophies’ exported from South Africa were officially ‘captive bred’ animals. These figures are set out in TABLE 1; with South Africa's captive bred figures in brackets.


H. BAUER ET AL., Panthera leo, IUCN RED LIST OF THREATENED SPECIES (2010) available at


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1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008








171 202 177 304 266 355 353 552 657 944

[27] [36] [73] [112] [134] [241] [211] [403] [411] [707]

74 47 24 3 38 45 70 70 64 63

26 95 101 105 107 94 90 63 47 43

22 30 9 2 0 0 27 22 28 15

1 29 15 10 15 15 26 18 15 18

272 317 230 228 216 141 210 223 108 138

{ZA - SOUTH AFRICA; ZA [CB] - SOUTH AFRICA CAPTIVE BRED; ZM - ZAMBIA; ZW – ZIMBABWE; BW – BOTSWANA; MZ – MOZAMBIQUE; TZ – TANZANIA} TABLE 1 clearly shows that Dr. Keet’s figure of 300, for approximate numbers of captive bred lions hunted per annum around 2007, was less than 75% of the official figures for each of the years from 2006 to 2008. Nevertheless, the figures in TABLE 1 also show that, especially from 2005 to 2008, as the numbers of canned lion trophy exports from South Africa went up, the number of wild lion trophy exports from the other five countries, overall went down—potentially supporting the notion that canned hunting eases the hunting pressure on wild lions.

Countering the Moral and Ethical Argument for Canned Hunting of Captive Bred Lions in South Africa 13

The Standard Ethical Argument The standard ethical argument is that even if it could be proven to reduce the hunting pressure on wild lions, the practice of killing captive bred lion lions in canned hunts should be prohibited as the lions have no ultimate means of escape. Thus, it is completely immoral, and, put simply, just plain wrong. In his Judgment of 11 June 2009, dismissing SAPBA's application at first instance, Judge Van der Merwe stated: It is not disputed that the hunting of lions bred in captivity has damaged the reputation of the Republic of South Africa immensely. It is clear on the evidence and also not disputed that very many people all over the world find the notion of hunting a lion bred and raised in captivity, often by hand, and totally dependent on humans for its survival, abhorrent and repulsive.11

Even before the end, these captive bred lions suffer in other ways, from birth and throughout the duration of their short lives. To quote extensively from Paul Hart of South Africa's Drakenstein Lion Park, who has rescued lions from captive breeders' premises in South Africa: There is unfortunately much more to canned hunting than just the hunt. Lions are speed bred on factory farms. Cubs are removed from the mothers at birth so that she goes into estrus shortly thereafter. This means that a lioness will produce cubs every six months as opposed to every two years, as nature intended. This obviously has a huge physiological and psychological effect on the lioness. The hand reared cubs are often used for petting opportunities, where they are pawed, posed and photographed by paying tourists, sometimes up to 500 times a day! The unsuspecting tourists unfortunately line 11 The South African Predator Breeders Association v. The Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Case No. 1900/2007, 71-72 (2009), available at


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the pockets of the lion breeders, most often with little regard for the lion cub they are molesting or the lives these poor cubs lead. These cubs often live in appalling conditions when not in the public eye, and are treated as commodities instead of living beings. Cubs are sometimes even beaten or drugged to keep them subdued while being ‘petted’ by tourists. Tourists are often told that these cubs are ‘orphans’ and that they will go to ‘game reserves’. The cubs grow very quickly and are soon too big for ‘petting,’ they are then ‘stored’ in the most costs effective way possible, until they are big enough to be sold off for a canned hunt. Many lion breeders operate facilities that are open to the public, where they offer the uninformed a host of reasons as to why they breed and what happens to the cubs, but the majority of lion breeders operate closed facilities where they can basically do whatever they want with little or no consideration for any animal welfare criteria. There are horrific stories of lions starving because lion breeders try to maximize profit by feeding inappropriate food such as cat pellets! To produce a ‘good looking’ lion does not require much in the way of behavioral enrichment and suitable housing.12

A further ethical point that also needs to be kept in mind is that, as Chris Draper of the Born Free Foundation points out, statistical analyses of this issue can all too frequently fail to take into account the fact that each and every lion making up the statistics such as those in TABLE 1 came to a violent, potentially painful, and not always abrupt end.13 Notwithstanding all of the above, with which the writer is entirely in agreement, sole reliance on the ethical issues must always come down to subjective ideological viewpoints of ‘us 12

Personal communication from Paul Hart to author (2010) (on file with author). 13 Personal communication from Chris Draper to author (2010) (on file with author).

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and them’(i.e., ‘we say canned hunting of captive bred lions should not be used as a genuine conservation tool because it's cruel and ethically immoral’). But is that too easy? As mentioned, the official CITES figures could be interpreted to suggest that canned hunting of captive bred lions is indeed a conservation tool that reduces the hunting pressure on wild lions. There currently are estimated to be somewhere between 23,000 and 39,000 lions left in the wild in Africa14 with their population in the wild in continuing to decline. Just recently, preliminary survey results have been published that: “…raise the possibility that no resident lion populations persist [where they had previously] in Congo, Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana.”15 With so few wild lions remaining, if captive breeding of lions for canned hunts could be proven beyond all reasonable doubt to reduce the hunting pressure on wild lion populations, should the industry now be endorsed and utilized as a legitimate conservation tool? If the alternative was the African lion having ‘extinct in the wild’ status within 20 to 30 years? The short answer is no. Over and above any sound ethical points, the captive lion breeding industry creates at least two very serious risks for wild lion populations that completely outweigh any benefit it may provide, the existence of which ought to completely rule out the utilization of canned hunts or even its acknowledgement as a conservation tool.


See P. CHARDONNET, Conservation of the African Lion: Contribution to a Status Survey, INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FOR THE CONSERVATION OF WILDLIFE (2002); H. BAUER & S. VAN DER MERWE, Inventory of Free-ranging Lions Panthera leo in Africa, ORYX 38, 26-31 (2004); and H. BAUER, Synthesis of Threats, Distribution and Status of the Lion from the Two Lion Conservation Strategies, MANAGEMENT AND CONSERVATION OF LARGE CARNIVORES IN WEST AND CENTRAL AFRICA (B. Croes, et al., eds., 2008). 15 P. HENSCHEL, ET AL., Lion Status Updates from Five Range Countries in West and Central Africa, CAT NEWS 52, 34-39 (2010).


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Risk 1 – ‘Wild’ Lions Dr. Keet indicates that fewer than 15 lions would be available to be hunted in the wild in South Africa every year. This is because the number of genuine free roaming lions outside protected areas in South Africa is now so low that 15 is likely to be the maximum amount of suitable trophy animals that are likely to be spotted by hunters per annum. The problem is that the maximum figure of 15 is far lower than the official CITES average figure of 163 non-captive bred (i.e. wild) lion trophies exported from South Africa every year throughout the 10 year period covered in TABLE 1. One explanation for this large divergence is false reporting. The reasoning for which could be explained by the Code of Conduct of the Rowland Ward ‘Guild of Field Sportsmen’ that requires: That no creature be hunted for sport in an enclosed area of such size that such creature is not self-sufficient. Selfsufficiency includes the ability of the animal to exercise its natural inclination to escape from the hunter as well as catering for all its basic needs such as water, food, shelter and breeding.16

It is entirely plausible that between 1999 and 2008 many captive bred lions were re-located to fenced areas that could still be deemed to comply with the above requirements, and then killed and labeled as ‘wild’ in order to comply with the above. Whatever the truth of the matter, if it is only physically possible to find and take approximately 15 suitable trophy lions from the wild in South Africa every year, despite the official figures showing an average of 163, then it becomes very obvious


See Rowland Ward (2010), available at Page=0.

Countering the Moral and Ethical Argument for Canned Hunting of Captive Bred Lions in South Africa 17

that false reporting is a reality that has been and presumably still is going on in South Africa.17 What is even more concerning, however, is the trend that has arisen in recent years of this false reporting taking place outside of South Africa. This can be explained by consideration of two different scenarios. Firstly, in the ‘corrupt canned hunter scenario’ the canned hunter will knowingly have his or her captive bred South African lion driven or flown to wild parts of other African countries such as Botswana, Mozambique or Zimbabwe. The animal will often be drugged so as not to travel too far, and it will then be shot and exported from those countries as ‘wild’ and thus, presumably, it will then be acceptable for Rowland Ward statistical purposes. Secondly, in the ‘uninformed non-canned hunter scenario’ a non-canned hunter may pay for his or her 21 day safari with accompanying lion hunting license only to find by the end of the second week that s/he has still not killed a lion. At this point a corrupt tour operator may contact a captive breeder in South Africa and have a captive bred lion shipped out and passed off as ‘wild’ to the uninformed hunter.18 This means, for a year like 2008, the figure for South African captive bred lions killed and exported as trophies would be more like 929 out of a total of 944 (944 minus a maximum of 15 genuine wild lion trophies) with an additional figure (x) transported and killed as ‘wild’ elsewhere. Obviously, given the corrupt nature of the practices making up figure (x), it is all but impossible to give it an exact value. Notwithstanding this, one indicator may be provided by the official CITES trade database figures for exports of live 17 CITES had not yet published the figures for 2009 at the time of writing in July 2010. 18 A. MCLAREN, Spotting Differences between Canned and Wild Lions (undated), available at


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captive bred lions from South Africa. For instance, in 2008, over a quarter of live captive bred lion exports from South Africa were to other African lion range states such as Botswana and Zambia. Overall, these figures have increased in line with the official CITES figures in TABLE 1, for exports of captive bred lion trophies from South Africa, and are set out in TABLE 2 below: TABLE 2: FIGURES OF LIVE LIONS EXPORTED FROM SOUTH AFRICA, PRIMARILY TO OTHER AFRICAN STATES, IN THE YEARS 1999 TO 2008. 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003

42 18 17 36 31

2004 2005 2006 2007 2008

62 47 66 66 129

The sharp increase in these live lion exports, in line with the figures in TABLE 1, is indicative of the lions’ ultimate fate once exported, and provides valuable evidence in support of the fact that captive bred lions are being exported from South Africa to other African lion range states from where they are being hunted and [re-exported] as ‘wild’ lions. The reason why this is such a big problem is because countries like Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Zambia have comparatively fragile wild lion populations whose continued existence remains uncertain. TABLE 1 indicates that the wild lion export figures from these countries, overall, have gone down in recent years. SAPBA might say this is because of the beneficial effect of captive breeding of lions for canned hunting, relieving the hunting pressure on wild lions. But could there be another explanation?

Countering the Moral and Ethical Argument for Canned Hunting of Captive Bred Lions in South Africa 19

In Tanzania, it has been concluded that the downward offtake trend most likely reflects declining population sizes.19 Dr. Keet himself pointed out and referenced the facts that: “Professional hunters working in Africa have observed over the last several years that ‘suitable’ trophy male lions have become increasingly difficult to find and that prides are smaller and unstable [and] fewer cubs are being produced with fewer individuals surviving to reach adulthood.”20 It therefore seems that, in addition to Tanzania, declining population sizes in other African nations also support the more likely explanation for the downward offtake trends in recent years in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Mozambique that are apparent from TABLE 1. Similar trends also would, in all likelihood, be found in the figures of all the other lion range states where trophy hunting is permitted. Yet, if the captive bred lion element could be removed from these countries’ official wild lion trophy export figures, they would be far lower than they actually are. It was noted in the 2006 Conservation Strategy for the Lion in West and Central Africa that in those areas: Lion trophy sometimes authorized without adequate knowledge of the size of the lion population. Lion census techniques are still rather random and not harmonized from one area to another. This situation can lead to management decisions which are contrary to the

19 C. PACKER, ET AL., Sport Hunting, Predator Control and Conservation of Large Carnivores. PLoS ONE 4(6): e5941. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005941 (2009), available at redator_Control_and_Conservatioof_Large_Carnivores.pdf; and II JOURNAL OF THE WILDCAT CONSERVATION LEGAL AID SOCIETY 63 (2009), 20 KEET, supra note 1.


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interests of conservation and increase the threat to the species. (Cat SG 2006a).21

This situation will only be made worse if countries’ official trophy export figures continue to indicate much higher exports of suitable trophy animals than could possibly live there. Over time, countries’ submission of unduly high figures for wild lion trophy exports, continually inflated by captive bred lions being passed off as ‘wild,’ will create the impression that those countries have much higher lion populations than is actually the case. This could lead to continued and/or excessive authorisation of trophy hunting in places where populations are close to extinction. It also could lead to the diversion of conservation measures that might otherwise have been taken—all of which would be directly attributable to the South African captive breeding industry whose exported lions inflated the official figures in the first place.

Risk 2 – Lion Bone Trade Recent evidence suggests that some captive lion breeders in South Africa are now exporting the bones from their lions, either directly and/or via intermediaries, to the Chinese for use in tiger bone wine. This is not to be confused with China’s lion bone wine that is actually tiger bone wine passed off as lion in an attempt to bypass the prohibition on trade in tiger products. In 2008, for example, CITES officially records that 60 ‘units’ of lion bones were exported to Viet Nam from South Africa, potentially for onward transmission to China. It is not known whether those units were single bones or entire carcasses but the arrest of a Vietnamese national in 2009 for being in possession of three entire lion carcasses, suggests the latter.22 Paul Hart states that: “The ‘bone industry’ has just started up, but 21

Conservation Strategy for the Lion in West and Central Africa (2006), available at

board/05_strategies/Lion_Conservation_Strategy_W&C%20Afric_2006_E.pdf. 22

See Carte Blanche MNET, (March 28, 2010 7:00 PM), available at

Countering the Moral and Ethical Argument for Canned Hunting of Captive Bred Lions in South Africa 21

it means that perfectly healthy lions are now being ‘culled’ so that their bones can be harvested.”23 In my view, it also will mean that the need for the breeders to ‘grow’ their animals into fine looking trophy animals will be removed. Instead, when their current stocks of comparatively healthy animals (that would initially have been ‘grown’ for canned hunts) are depleted, those breeders diversifying down this route are likely to move towards the cheapest possible production of bone by way of unnaturally fast, hormonally enhanced growth of their lions to adulthood, then starving them to death as per the photos of the skeletal tigers languishing in the Chinese tiger farms. This burgeoning diversification into a lion bone industry by a section of the South African captive lion breeding/canned hunting industry (it is not apparent how large or small a section just yet) carries the obvious risk of not only creating but fuelling demand for lion bones from Africa. This in turn creates the obvious risk that merchants may well choose to buy wild lion bones from poachers for much lower prices than their captive breeder rivals are charging. This is exactly what has happened with the Chinese tiger farms. They have fuelled the demand for wild tiger bones and thus increased poaching of the few remaining wild tigers in countries such as India.24 What is worse is that far from taking immediate steps to clamp down on this new lion bone trade, thus sending a clear signal that it will not tolerate any further derogation of its reputation by the captive lion breeding industry, the South African government has taken an extraordinarily acquiescent, and even supportive, stance. 23

Supra note 12. K. NOWELL & LING XU, Taming the Tiger Trade: China's Markets for Wild and Captive Tiger Products Since its 1993 Domestic Trade Ban, TRAFFIC EAST ASIA, (2007); and K. NOWELL, Tiger Farms and Pharmacies: The Central Importance of China's Trade Policy for Tiger Conservation, TIGERS OF THE WORLD: THE SCIENCE, POLITICS, AND CONSERVATION OF PANTHERA TIGRIS (Philip J. Nyhus & Ron Tilson eds., 2d ed. 2010). 24


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In December 2009, the WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society (WCCLAS) reported the fact that a lion breeder in the Free State area of South Africa had been granted an official permit to euthanize some of the lions he had bred in order to export their bones.25 In addition I also found evidence of another permit granted to a lady called Tiffany Beck who has a company called Tiffanys Travels; also in the Free State area. Ms Beck states: “We have a permit to legally export Lion Meat from South Africa. Permit was obtained in Dec. 2009. We are regularly selling: lion meat, lion skin, lion organs, lion bones.�26 When asked about these permits Buti Mathabula, Chief Director of Environmental Management in the Free State, is reported to have said that: In the Free State, lions bred in captivity are kept for the purpose of trophy hunting. Bones which aren't used are removed as waste products. Lions in the Free State are not of any value to us from an environmental point of view. They're not roaming free in the wild. If someone wants to hunt the lions in the Free State, that's fine. We don't want these lions here. We're better off without lions in the Free State. There are problems with fences. If they escape, they kill people.27

This provincial stance completely fails to take into account the broader issue that the granting of permits allowing export of lion bones has created a dangerous precedent for and fuelled the new lion bone trade, not just in South Africa but potentially throughout the entire African continent. 25

See WILDCAT ADVOCATE 3 (December 2009) available at 26 See Tiffanys Travels,; and 211. 27 B. MATHABULA, Anger over lion bone sales (Dec. 10, 2009), available at

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Worse still, is that at national level the South African government is equally non- caring. When asked whether she would consider banning the export of lion bones and if not, why not, Ms Buyelwa Patience Sonjica, the South African Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs (appointed May 11, 2009) stated: “No. The banning of the export of lion bones will only be considered if the export has a negative impact on the survival of the species in the wild. This is not currently the case.�28 This staggering level of ignorance indicates that it is unlikely the South African government will take the necessary measures to stop this new lion bone industry before it becomes fully established. This is perhaps not surprising given the South African government's previous support of the captive lion breeding / canned hunting industry, notwithstanding the TOPS Regulations public relations exercise. For instance a government release dated July 9, 2008 stated that, at her 2008 environmental road show in the North West province, the then Deputy Minister of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Ms. Rejoice Mabudafhasi ...unequivocally assured the [lion] farmers that government does appreciate the existence of the industry and that there is no way that the [TOPS] regulations will eventually lead to the closure of the industry as the industry is an accepted part of the tourism experience package that South Africa markets. She acknowledged that the industry plays a key role in enhancing and promoting tourism in the country.29

There appears to be only two glimmers of hope with regard to the extent to which the new lion bone industry, fuelled 28

RSA Parliamentary question from B. P. Sonjica to and answer from the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Internal Question Paper No. 1 NW272E, (Feb. 11, 2010), available at 29 R. Mabudafhasi, Deputy Minister, Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, South African government statement assuring lion breeders the department's support (July 2008), available at


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by the South African captive lion breeding industry, will impact upon the few remaining wild lions in Africa. The first is that, stating the obvious, lion bones are not tiger bones. The Chinese demand is for tiger bone wine and they prefer it to be made from the bones of wild tigers as they believe they are more potent. If the Chinese are unaware that the tiger bone wine they are drinking is made from lion bones, it ought not to make any difference whether those bones are from captive bred or wild lions. The second glimmer of hope is the proposal in the 2006 Regional Conservation Strategy for the Lion Panthera Leo in Eastern and Southern Africa that all relevant legislation of the lion range states in those areas be reviewed and amended to prohibit trade in lion bones.30 As shown above, however, amendment is unlikely to happen in the Republic of South Africa any time soon. In reality, the economic consideration that poachers are likely to charge far less for wild lion bones they have poached is likely to be a key factor. A factor that may not even have come into play had the captive lion breeding industry not started, and had the South African government not acquiesced to and even endorsed trading in lion bones in the first place.

Conclusion The figures in TABLE 1 can be interpreted to show that as canned hunting of captive bred lions in South Africa has increased, the trophy hunting of wild lions throughout the remainder of the African continent has gone down. But that fails to take into account the scarcity factor amongst wild populations that, as shown, provides the more likely explanation for the overall decline in the other countries’ wild lion trophy export figures.


Regional Conservation Strategy for the Lion Panthera Leo in Eastern and Southern Africa (2006), available at f.

Countering the Moral and Ethical Argument for Canned Hunting of Captive Bred Lions in South Africa 25

It follows that if breeding lions in South Africa for use in canned hunts was now properly prohibited, the vast increase in trophy hunting of wild lions that has been predicted physically could not happen. Dr. Keet gets round this by suggesting that more lions would be coaxed from protected areas and/or more problem animals would be ‘created.’31 Phrased as such, this suggestion almost reads like a ransom note—i.e. if you ban canned hunting of captive bred lions the canned hunters will go out of their way to hunt the last few wild lions. However, whether it is naivety or optimism, the fact remains that further and better enforcement measures ought to prevent any perceived increase in instances of coaxing from happening. Even if such levels of prevention are unrealistic, the continued risks of the South African captive lion breeding/canned hunting industry inflating wild lion trophy figures, distorting trophy hunting authorizations, diverting wild lion conservation measures, and fuelling the burgeoning new lion bone market in Africa that it helped create are very real. These risks alone completely rule out any utilization of South Africa's captive lion breeding/canned hunting industry as a legitimate conservation management tool or even it being acknowledged as such.


KEET, supra note 1.


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Lion, It’s What’s for Dinner


COMMENTARY: LION, IT’S WHAT’S FOR DINNER Lisa Ann Tekancic WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society, Washington, DC In April and June 2010, two restaurants—The Flaming Grill in Sacramento, California and il Vinaio, in Mesa, Arizona— put African lion burgers on their menus and put themselves in the center of a fervent ethical debate between animal rights/protection groups and ‘tertiary consumers.’ Cameron Selogie the owner of il Vinaio stated in various news reports1 that he purchased the lion meat from Gourmet Imports, an exotic meat distributor, who bought the meat from Czimer’s Game & Sea Foods, who obtained the meat from lion farms in Illinois, where African lions are raised specifically for harvesting the meat for human consumption. He further stated that the lion farms are inspected and regulated by the United States Department of Agricultural (USDA).


See MICHELLE PRICE, Restaurant Serves Lion Burgers Despite Protests, SACRAMENTO BEE, June 25, 2010, available at; ANNALYN CENSKY, Hunting the Lion Burger Butcher, CNNMONEY.COM, June 23, 2010, available at ndex.htm?hpt=T2; Would You Eat a Lion Burger?, SMITHSONIAN.COM, June 23, 2010, available at; and CHRIS BIELE, Sacramento Café: We Serve Lion and Antelope Burgers, FOX40 NEWS, April 17, 2010, available at,0,6496568.story.


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The Chicago Tribune reported on the story with a followup article on their website in “The Stew, A Taste of Chicago’s Food, Wine, and Dining Scene,”2 in which readers are able to post their comments. The comments ranged from “…all of God’s creatures are available to eat;” “…the lions raised in Illinois are raised for consumption;” “Lions are not endangered like tigers;” “predators don’t eat predators it’s a professional courtesy;” “I see nothing wrong with eating farm raised animals. This was not a wild animal;” to “…there is no need to eat animals for sustenance. We are advanced enough to live off of agriculture. The only reason why a lot of people are starving is because of political reasons;” “This is beyond sick. How can you justify eating Lion as a common meat like cow? These are LIONS!” “While I agree we shouldn’t be plucking them out of the wild for population reasons, as far as ones raised in captivity, why should they have any more or less rights than a cow?” “Just because God created it doesn’t mean you have to eat it. Don’t’ believe me? Go pick some wild mushrooms for your salad tonight.” All of the comments taken as a whole represent the polar extremes on whether lion meat ought to be considered as an ethical and legitimate food source for humans. But the comments also reveal the lack of factual knowledge about lions as a food source for humans, the existence of ‘lion farms’ in the U.S., the laws and regulations, and cultural traditions. Energy. All creatures, the environment, and the universe are comprised of energy. In order to live, every living thing needs a particular type of food in order to produce the energy it requires to thrive. As food passes through the body, some of it is digested. The process of digestion releases energy. The food chain in its basic form provides a road map for us to follow the movement of energy through an ecosystem.


See PHIL VETTEL, The Stew, A Taste of Chicago’s Food, Wine, and Dining Scene, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, June 23, 2010, available at

Lion, It’s What’s for Dinner


First, organisms are divided into groups based on how they are genetically engineered to process what they eat. Carnivores (lions) eat only meat—other animals; Omnivores (humans and other animals), eat both animals and plants; Herbivores (zebra, deer) eat only plants; and Detrivores (maggots, bacteria) eat waste and decaying matter which is released back into the ecosystem in the form of nutrients. Next, we need to look at the organisms’ positions on the food chain. The first position in the food chain is plants. Plants are termed producers because they are able to use light from the sun to produce their own food (sugar) from carbon dioxide and water. Humans and animals cannot make their own food like plants can so they must eat plants and/or other animals for energy. This group is known as consumers. Primary consumers (herbivores) are animals that eat only plants; Secondary consumers (carnivores) are animals that eat only primary consumer animals (herbivores); Tertiary consumers (omnivores) are humans and other animals that eat plants and animals (herbivores) a mix of primary and secondary consumers; and Quaternary consumers which eat tertiary consumers. If a lion eats a bear that ate a fish that ate a bug that ate a plant, the lion is a quaternary consumer.3 (Quaternary consumers also are defined to include a strict carnivore that “eats” another strict carnivore.) The point of the preceding paragraphs is to demonstrate that the higher the level on the food chain (as a food source) for example, lions and humans, the lower the level of energy and nutritional value. There is little to no energy or nutritional value for humans if they eat lions or any other strict carnivores. Eating a herbivore, an animal that only eats plants, give humans more energy and provides more nutrients than eating a carnivore. The energy and nutrients that remain in a carnivore after the digestive process is much less than that of a herbivore, if any remains at all. 3

See generally ENERGY IN AN ECOSYSTEM available at


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Lions eat the same type of animals (herbivores) that humans eat because of the energy and nutrients those animals provide. In the U.S. there are animals that are raised specifically for human consumption on traditional farms but lions are not one of one of those animals. Lions have never been nor will they ever be a ‘farm animal’ bred specifically for human consumption. Lions, however, are raised in captivity for commercial purposes that include zoological parks and other entertainment venues. These activities are regulated under the Animal Welfare Act and enforced by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service which overseas entities and individuals that engage in commerce as dealers, breeders, and exhibitors. What happens to these animals when they ‘expire,’ however, is a question that rarely receives a clear answer from either the state or federal agencies that are responsible for enforcing the laws governing the commercial activities and possession of all wildcats. Trade, both legal and illegal, in wildcat parts and products is a multi-million dollar industry.4 The cats are wanted and prized for their skins, their fur, their bones, and their heads. Their meat is simply a bi-product, and since there are only limited trade restrictions with respect to African lions, their meat can be sold. But would you want to consume a lion burger when neither the USDA nor the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actually inspects the meat (no USDA purple stamp on a lion burger) or even knows with any specificity where, from whom, or how the meat was obtained? In the news articles reporting on il Vinaio’s serving lion burgers,5 questions were raised with respect to which federal agency, the USDA or the FDA, is responsible for enforcing the regulations and conducting inspections for the processing of ‘lion meat.’


Lion, It’s What’s for Dinner


Most of us would ‘assume’ that since the USDA inspects ‘traditional meat’ it would inspect ‘non-traditional’ meat. Meat is meat right? Wrong. Under the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 9, Ch. III, §352.2, Exotic Animals (also referred to as game animals) are defined as reindeer, elk, deer, antelope, water buffalo, and bison. Interestingly, these animals are native U.S. wildlife, yet the mountain lion (puma, cougar), lynx, bobcat, ocelot, and jaguar were not specified although they are native U.S. wildcats. Under Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations, the FDA is responsible for ‘other food items’ not specified in Title 9 under the USDA which includes other exotic meat or game meat, eggs, and cosmetics. Yet after a review of the regulations, I could not specifically find lion or any feline meat, any nutritional information, or inspection procedures with respect to processing lion meat for human consumption. I telephoned the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition for their assistance with locating in the Code of Federal Regulations and the United States Code the regulations and laws on the procurement, nutritional value, and processing lion meat for human consumption. The ‘agent’ I spoke with confirmed that all other meat not specified under Title 9 which is under the jurisdiction of the USDA, defaults to the FDA. I was not given any other specific information other than the FDA only performs inspections of facilities that process meat; the meat itself is not inspected. There are no nutritional values specified for ‘game meat’ and in particular lion, but any ‘game meat’ has a weight requirement of 55 grams. According to the FDA it is ‘legal’ to sell lion meat. But do we really want to? All things considered, shouldn’t human consumption of lion meat be a matter of public health and safety? Lions and particularly lion meat is not a ‘regulated’ food source for human consumption. It is simply a bi-product from another ‘legal’ commercial activity. Neither the public nor any regulatory agency know where the lion(s) is coming from; how it lived, its age, what it ate, if it was ill or diseased, if it was given any medications, its cause of death, how the carcass was handled


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and stored prior to being transported, how it was transported to a ‘butcher,’ or how it was processed and handled by the ‘butcher.’ How can we intentionally and deliberately allow these practices to occur within our ‘food stream of commerce?’ In the U.S., it is legal in some states to hunt mountain lions; however, like the hunters in Africa, lions are hunted for sport and trophies and not for food. In Asia, it is the bone from ‘wild’ tigers that is sought for its alleged medicinal qualities but not from captive bred tigers. All organisms, plants, animals, and humans will always be connected by the food web. As ‘top predators’ we need not only to be aware and understand the fragility and complexity of that web, but also to respect, guard and protect it, because we unlike plants are not producers, but one of four consumers that are needed in order to keep the fragile web intact and in balance. Too much of one and not enough of another will catastrophically compromise the natural checks and balances that all living things need to survive. Native Americans understood this concept; perhaps one day we all will. Enemy, guardian, friend—facets of mountain lion glint and flash through a myriad Native beliefs, but underlying them all is a single vein. Natives see the world as a whole in which every entity, animate and inanimate, plays a part. Every part is intimately involved in an unending, mysterious cycle of life and death, and any feature of nature—plants, animals, mountains, waterfalls—might be addressed in terms of kinship. The lives of nonhumans have importance and power. Nonhuman life sustains human life. This fact generated a deeply felt need for reciprocity, which is expressed in mystic rituals and codes of behavior. From the tension between exploiting and worshipping the environment grew a desire for harmony and a tolerance of ambiguity. Ambivalence was recognized and accepted as the most rational response to the beauty and pain, the delight and terror of the natural world. Mountain lions are as fierce as bloodshed but gentle as a mother with kittens, as strong as death yet vulnerable to accidents and age. American Indians were able to reconcile the extremes

Lion, It’s What’s for Dinner


and the emotional result was respect. It is a way of knowing through balance. ‘What kind of animal is the lion,’ I asked an Indian at one of the pueblos, expecting a western-style description of physical traits or perceived behavior. ‘Why there’s only one kind of animal, the kind that demands respect,’ he said in astonishment. Much of the sacredness in Native American thought about animals in general and lions in particular may have been wrenched a way by half a millennium of disruption, but there’s still an embarrassingly simple lesson at the core: live and let live. ‘Lions should just be left alone,’ Hopis and Navajos and Pueblos said to me over and over. In the history of white relationships with lions, that’s been the last thing to occur to anyone.6




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Caracals (Desert Lynx) The New World Paradigm – Taking the Wild Out of Our Wildlife 35


Chris Mercer† Free State, South Africa There is a new paradigm stalking our wildlife. As human pressures increase, and habitats shrink, the wild is being taken out of the animals. Animals are now semi-domesticated within fenced camps, because there is little true wilderness left anywhere †

Founder of the South African NGO Campaign Against Canned Hunting (; former Advocate of the High Courts of Zimbabwe and Botswana; and co-author with Beverley Pervan of the book For the Love of Wildlife.


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and the shattered remnants of our wildlife are steadily being domesticated for commercial purposes. Canned lion hunting is the obvious example. Where do sanctuaries fit into the new paradigm? Answer: they give compassionate care to orphaned and injured animals, but unless we can stop the slaughter of wildcats on rangeland and find the money to preserve some semi-wilderness at least, then sanctuaries cannot rehabilitate the animals back to the wild and therefore have no conservation value. The purpose of this article is to expose the hideous plight of wildcats in South Africa, and to plead for a more humane approach to farming practices or else the only wildcats left will be the living dead in sanctuaries and zoos. No matter how caring the sanctuary, the wildcat cannot develop in a captive environment. A wildcat must remain wild; that is, it needs to function in a natural environment. To discuss the ethics of sanctuaries and zoos while the undeclared war rages on wildcats in their own habitats, is to debate minutely a puddle on the floor while surging floods surround the house. Unless all animal welfare organizations combine to tackle the larger issue of wilderness preservation, the other issues relating to captive wildcats are relatively trivial. To illustrate the terrifying plight of wildcats in South Africa, here is the story of three caracals (desert lynx) who were adopted by a sanctuary – and the bitter legal struggle which that act of kindness caused.

The Facts In August 2000 three young caracals were rescued by the Kalahari Raptor Centre (KRC) from a farmer who would otherwise have shot them. The KRC is a registered Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in the Northern Cape Province that was

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founded by the writer and Beverley Pervan. Our Centre had no permits to keep caracals although we had applied for such permits both before and after the rescue, and indeed we were awaiting a reply to our latest permit application at the time the rescue took place. The Department of Nature Conservation in Kimberley responded to the rescue by immediately threatening to prosecute us and took steps to confiscate the three animals. The confiscation took place in December 2000. In a bizarre show of para-military force, a whole convoy of armed policemen, conservation officials, Vets and even the video unit of the SA Police Force descended upon us. They invaded our home, took two hours to capture three little caracal kittens—a job that Beverly and I could have done in a few seconds without the use of dart-guns and drugs—and removed our caracals to Bloemfontein Zoo. The legal basis for the confiscation was that the animals ‘were needed as exhibits.’ This I believe was an abuse of the process of the court, because a formal admission could easily have made the cruelty of such a removal unnecessary. Anyway, as it turned out, the confiscation was illegal for other more technical reasons, and within a week we had obtained a High Court order requiring the Department to go and fetch the three little animals from Bloemfontein Zoo and return them to us in the Kalahari. This incident was widely reported in the Press, much to the discomfort of the conservation officials. Bureaucrats do not like to be publicly embarrassed so after that it was war. The prosecution proceeded with the issue of summons, and we suffered the humiliation of being taken to Kuruman Police station to be fingerprinted (just like real criminals). Then there was the succession of remands, one after another, being forced to sit and wait all day outside the Magistrates court before being barked at “Kom Op!” by an arrogant young Prosecutor of Indian descent, further remanded.


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The Magistrates Court The trial finally took place in Kuruman Magistrates court in September 2001. Although the ‘offence’ was so trivial that the State could only get a caution and discharge upon conviction, such was the importance attached to this case by the Provincial Nature Conservation that the initial prosecutor was deemed inadequate, and the Kimberley Prosecuting Authority dispatched a High Court Advocate to ensure a successful conviction. However, by then I had done my homework, and felt that we had some powerful legal and constitutional defenses. It was not disputed that in refusing the permit applications, the official had relied entirely upon a fifty year old piece of apartheid legislation called the Problem Animal Control Ordinance, 26 of 1957. So I asked my attorneys to send me a copy of the ordinance, and what I saw there turned my blood cold. In twenty years legal experience in three jurisdictions, I had never seen such a sickening document. The Problem Animal Control Ordinance, 26 of 1957 is a chilling reminder of the days when all laws and policies were framed to protect the narrow commercial interests of a tiny minority, the white livestock—farming community, at the expense of the population at large. The ordinance specifically excludes blacks. Scarcely credible though it may be, Northern Cape Conservation officials continued, twelve years after Nelson Mandela walked to freedom, to enforce a law which begins: “Any six persons who are not black may form a hunt club.” Equally amazing was that black judges and officials had no qualms about enforcing this law. The Problem Animal Control Ordinance of 1957 purports to be a Declaration of War upon, and an extermination programme for, any species of wildlife which affects the farming community, including caracals, African wildcats, and any other predators. Whole species are arbitrarily positioned outside the boundaries of moral or legal concern.

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The provisions of the Ordinance are as repressive as I have ever dealt with. Any attempt to harbour or care for these animals (enemies of the State) is strictly verboten. Wildlife sanctuaries—and this would include economically important ecotourism resorts—are treated by the law as an illegal breeding ground for vermin. Draconian measures are provided which discourages the showing of any kindness to the enemy. Local white-only hunt clubs are granted the power to behave like Robert Mugabe’s thugs in Zimbabwe and carry out an armed invasion of the sanctuary. An armed cavalry of motorized insurgents, together with any dog pack, may smash through the fence of the sanctuary/ecotourism resort and charge around the land looking for any caracals or jackals that might be sheltered from the extermination programme. A better recipe for causing armed conflict between neighbors is hard to imagine. No notice or permission is required from the hunt from the occupiers of the invaded land. Any attempt to resist the invasion is unlawful. In short, this is nothing more or less than a selective imposition of martial law. This monstrous legislation so far exceeds any legitimate need for livestock farmers to protect themselves from stock predation is so atheist and immoral and so damaging to the economic interests of the country, that one wonders how it has avoided repeal in the new South Africa. As can be seen from the figures given in the South African Journal of Science, dated August 1996, hundreds of thousands of animals, mostly harmless non-target animals, have been slain in these terrible hunts. Over a period of a few short years, the hunt club known as the Oranjejag exterminated 87,570 animals in the Free State province alone. About seventy percent (60,340) were harmless Cape Foxes. The evil in conservation does not end here. The damage to the Cape Fox population was exploited by declaring it to be a “potential problem animal” (whatever that means). This title made a target out of a non-


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target species. The designation enabled the hunt clubs to conceal the fact that they were wasting taxpayers’ money and slaughtering useful and harmless animals by the tens of thousands, and to claim substantial successes against a ‘potential problem animal.’ I started to research the subject of ‘problem animals,’ and this is what I found out. Near Bloemhof about 200 kms west of Johannesburg lies a small reserve, the SA Lombard Nature Reserve, a 3,800 hectare stretch of open grassland. This was where the apartheid regime carried out its Mengele—like experiments on ‘problem’ animals. The Reserve is where captured cheetah and caracals were fed on meat laced with poisons, while nice conservation officials callously recorded the time taken for the animals to die. Here is where dogs were bred (at taxpayers’ expense) to supply the dog-packs which scourged the land killing our wildlife. This facility has fallen into disuse now owing to diversion of funds into more useful activities, but the legacy lives on in the minds of conservation officials in South Africa. The dreadful experiments conducted over the years at the SA Lombard Reserve show what happens when poisons like 1080 are ingested. Cape Foxes took about 15 hours to die, jackals up to 36 hours. Horrifying video footage shows the excruciating suffering of the animals in that time; tetanic spasms, convulsions, howling and shrieking. I discovered that the program for dealing with problem animals by livestock farmers, which is facilitated and approved by conservation officials, involves the lifting of all controls on inhumane methods of hunting. Gin-traps, snares, poison, you name it and it is legitimate in the war on wildlife. One favorite device for getting animals out of burrows involves the use of barbed wire. A length of barbed wire is fed into the hole and then twisted until the barbs catch in the coat of the trapped animal. Twisting continues until the animal's coat has been rolled around the barbs. Once impaled in this manner, the grotesquely disfigured animal—whether a target animal or just a harmless family of little bat-eared foxes—is hauled out of the burrow into the jaws of the waiting dogs.

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Behind the euphemism of ‘problem animal control’ lies barbaric cruelty on a scale that the South African public cannot even imagine. Of course the national government has made South Africa a signatory to the Convention on Biodiversity, which makes compulsory extermination of whole species unlawful. Look at the absurdity of the situation. Here is the national government attending international conferences and solemnly undertaking to save the animals, while in truth, the war against wildcats and other predators rages on, supported by government conservation officials. Beverley and I are qualified to discuss problem animal control because after our retirement, we spent eleven years as livestock farmers in the western Transvaal. We won prizes for our sheep at various shows around the country. This may not make us experts, but it does help to prevent conservation officials from pulling the wool over our eyes. We know how easy it is to adjust farming tactics in order to minimize losses by predators. We responded to losses by caracal and jackal predation by changing to an indigenous breed (Damaras flock better than Dorpers and resist predators better), bringing heavily pregnant ewes in to a safe camp, and corralling our animals at night. There was no need for us to reach for the poison bottle, the gin-trap, the barbed wire, etc. Beverley and I challenged the constitutional validity of the Problem Animal Control Ordinance, 26 of 1957, and raised the defense of unlawful administrative action, pointing out that it was the conservation officials who had broken the law, not us. Now I remember very well that when I was a prosecutor in the Attorney-General's Office, we used to prosecute people who had broken the law. In South African conservation it seems, the people who break the law get to lay the charges, and the system then prosecutes not the offenders, but the victims. We had complied with the law by applying for permits, and now we were waiting for our permits to be properly considered according


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to law. Until that had happened, we could not be treated as if we had broken the law. Or so we thought. How naïve we were. Furthermore, in the real world, conservationists are supposed to protect wildlife, and to prosecute those who seek to destroy it. We had obviously fallen through the looking glass into Wonderland because here it was the other way around. We were being prosecuted for protecting wildlife, and it was the so-called ‘conservationists’ who were seeking to eradicate the animals.

The Review Application While on remand for the criminal case, Beverley and I had made a separate application to the High Court (Kgomo J) to review the unreasonable restrictions on our permits. Apart from the exclusion of ‘problem animals’ there were other wholly unreasonable permit restrictions such as a 4kg weight limit. I kid you not! The only registered wildlife rehabilitation center in the largest and wildest province in South Africa was, and still is, restricted to caring for animals and birds that do not weigh more than 4 kgs. What an arbitrary and capricious permit condition. It does not relate to anything regarding animals which might need rehabilitation. An animal's weight may be of acute interest to aircraft cargo, but it has no relevance to rehabilitation. And what about animals who come in as juveniles weighing less than four kilograms, but who grow under our care to weigh more before release; such as a porcupine? Why on earth should we be banned from offering care to orphaned and injured porcupines? I decided to represent myself and Beverly; to save the expense of lawyers in what I thought was a straightforward matter. That was a mistake. When I rose to address the Court I was hit with a barrage of questions, such as: “Who are you? Are you poor? Why do you not have a lawyer? Do you think you are better than all the lawyers in South Africa?” These questions seemed to me to be more designed to humiliate than to elicit information. So much for my legal right to act for myself. Our application was postponed sine die (indefinitely) for reasons having nothing to do with the merits of the case. Feeling

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thoroughly depressed, we prepared ourselves for the criminal hearing in the Kuruman Magistrates Court.

The Magistrates Court, Kuruman If we ever had entertained any thought that we might get a fair trial there, then we were very soon disillusioned. Actually we did not even get a trial, let alone a fair one. When I attempted to raise our legal defenses during the hearing, the magistrate stopped me at once by holding up his hand like a traffic cop. “You are charged with not having a permit,” he said. "If you cannot produce a permit then you are guilty and everything else is for mitigation." “What about our legal defences?” I enquired. “You will have to raise them later in the High Court,” replied the magistrate, and proceeded to convict both of us for keeping animals without a permit. He then for good measure sentenced us to substantial fines under the wrong section of the Nature Conservation ordinance, one which was aimed at protecting endangered species such as the black rhino. Having been sentenced on the basis that we were black rhino poachers, Beverly and I noted an appeal against the result of the administrative procedure (it could hardly be called a trial, let alone a fair trial), where the judicial officer had refused to even consider the legal defenses. Forget the right to a fair trial under section 25 of the Bill of Rights. In the heat of the Northern Cape, it seemed to us that constitutional rights were like a mirage—they looked wonderfully comfortable from a distance, but evaporated when one needed them. The magistrate also ordered the forfeiture of the three exhibits (sorry, caracals) to the State. However, by now our case was in the news, and public pressure forced the Nature Conservation Department in Kimberley to issue us permits—the very permits we had applied for in the first place. First the


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officials who have refused our permits prosecute us, raising their own unlawful conduct to get a conviction and forfeiture, and then what? Then, they belatedly issue us the very permits that we had applied for in the first place. Talk about putting the cart before the horse. (Subsequently, the two healthy caracals were rehabilitated back to the wild while 'Tripod' the three- legged one pictured above, remained in our care at the KRC until we retired in 2004.)

Detour - The Constitutional Court Beverley and I were determined to expose the failure of conservationists to protect wildcats, and so, notwithstanding the eye-gouging legal expenses, we decided to take the case all the way to the Constitutional Court, knowing that every legal step along the way would be covered by the media. Such is the celerity of the Northern Cape provincial legal system that it took a full year for the transcribing of the short record and the setting down of the appeal for hearing. Then, a few days before the appeal, we were dealt a body blow. Our appeal was postponed (in our absence and without us being given an opportunity to contest the State's application for a postponement) for another six months. Exasperated at these extraordinary delays, we lost patience and approached the Constitutional Court by way of direct access, complaining that we could not get justice in the Northern Cape Province. In October, 2002, the Constitutional Court ruled that since we were challenging the validity of an entire provincial ordinance, the matter would have to be argued first in the Kimberley High Court “notwithstanding the delays.” We didn’t seem to have any other option, but to keep paying lawyers and to wait. Eventually, the appeal was heard in Kimberley on 3rd March, 2003, and judgment given by Kgomo JP on 22nd April 2003; nearly three years after the rescue of the caracals. We were represented by Senior Counsel this time, notwithstanding the expense, after what happened in the review proceeding.

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The Kimberley High Court In its judgment, the Kimberley High Court acquitted Beverley on the ground that there was insufficient evidence to implicate her in the ‘crime,’ but affirmed my conviction. To my disbelief, the Kimberley High Court did the same thing that the Magistrate had done. It refused to consider our defences. First, the High Court took the view that the constitutionality of the fifty-year old ordinance was not relevant to the case, so that the constitutionality of the old ordinance was ‘of academic concern only.’ Second, the Court held that the unlawful conduct of the conservation officials also was irrelevant. It could not be raised as a defense in the criminal case, but only separately by way of review in the civil courts. I would hope this had been a little tongue in cheek after what happened in the earlier civil review proceeding. So our defences were never considered on their merits at all. The Court had got around them by simply ruling them all 'irrelevant'. Furthermore, the Kimberley Judge mero motu (by himself) raised the novel idea that when I had collected the animals, I did so with the ‘sinister motive’ of provoking a constitutional challenge to the obsolete ordinance. This was not true, and I had the correspondence from my attorneys to prove it. I only became aware of the old ordinance after the rescue when the threat of prosecution caused me to do legal research. Raising new theories on appeal when the accused has no chance in this manner to rebut them is termed an ‘ambush’ in legal parlance. Even if it were true, ‘sinister motives’ are what ordinary people would associate with the likes of Osama Bin Laden rather than someone who was rescuing some persecuted animals to protect them from racist, lethal, outdated laws. The Court then reduced my sentence to one of caution and discharge, which is the next best thing to acquittal, because we were ‘doing splendid service


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for the community.’ Now my question is this: If we were doing such splendid service for the community, why were our permit applications refused by nature conservation? Answer: Because of the old problem animal ordinance. But if that is so, then how can the Court find that the old ordinance was not relevant to the charges? You figure it. I applied for leave to appeal. We were no longer rhino poachers, but now I had ‘sinister motives.’

Application for Leave to Appeal - Kimberley My application for leave to appeal was like a new hearing, involving more delay, vast expense, and the absurd situation whereby the same lawyers appear before the same judges and make the same submissions they made at the trial, with in our case the same result. The application was dismissed. What a monumental waste of time and money. In the jurisdictions in which I practiced law, such applications were made orally at the end of a trial in order to avoid the duplication of a separate hearing. This elaborate procedure serves no useful purpose other than to enrich the legal profession. It was time to appeal again; this time to the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein. Another thirty thousand bucks to the lawyers, more turgid affidavits and arguments, and off we went.

The Faceless, Phantom Supreme Court of Appeal Here was a fresh delight for my already incredulous mind. Here, dear citizen, you do not get to see or meet or speak to a judge, nor does this august body concern itself with such trifles as giving reasons for their judgment. No, this is the slot machine of the South African legal system. You stick your thirty thousand rands in, your lawyer pulls the handle, and the machine spits out a form that reads, “leave to appeal refused.” That's it. That is all you get for your money. You do not know who (if anyone) has read the arguments, pregnant with authorities and

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case law so painstakingly prepared by your lawyers. With the same feeling as a gambler who pulls the handle of the slot machine and does not hit the jackpot, I turned away from the Bloemfontein Court and faced up to the final hurdle. We were going back to the Constitutional Court again, to get justice for ourselves and all the persecuted animals.

The Constitutional Court The Constitutional Court of South Africa is a Xerox shareholder's dream. In order to dispense justice, this Court requires 24 copies of the appeal record which may be thousands of pages. Every exhibit, every document, every affidavit, every scrap of paper has to be laser-printed twenty four times. And, because one of the judges is unsighted and relies on his computer to receive the information, every single document has to be put into a computer and saved to disc. This means more expense and we have the hole in our bank account to prove it. But, after a struggle costing hundreds of thousands and three years of our lives, what I got from this, the highest Court in the land, was the sorriest excuse for a judgment that I have seen in twenty years of legal experience. The judgment of the Constitutional Court refusing my application for leave to appeal is reported at CCT 043/03 and is less than 2 pages. It simply paraphrases the reasons given by the Kimberley High Court for rejecting my defences thereby repeating the misstatements of fact. I suppose that I was spoiled by practicing in jurisdictions where the judges were people I admired. Most were broadminded and discerning as well as legally astute. One or two of the judges had even gone on to be appointed to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Perhaps it was that I know what I could have expected from judges of high caliber that highlighted for me the gulf which separates judges like them from the South African judges I had encountered. There was simply no comparison.


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Take my argument that the Problem Animal Control Ordinance was unconstitutional. There can be no doubt that this obsolete old ordinance was unconstitutional in several respects. Any old law which begins: “any six persons who are not black may form a hunt club…” and then goes on to press-gang land occupiers into white-only hit squads to liquidate our wildlife heritage is bound to trespass upon the Bill of Rights. The Court dismissed my challenge with the bald statement that I had not proved “any legally relevant connection” between this old ordinance and the charge against me. The fact that our permit applications were refused wholly, solely, and exclusively because of the old Problem Animal Control Ordinance was conveniently overlooked. There is a special procedure in the Constitutional Court Rules providing for interested parties to represent their interests as ‘amicus curiae’ literally meaning “Friends of the Court.” The Northern Cape Provincial Conservation Department filed an affidavit under this rule in which it implored the Court to dismiss my appeal, and also filed a proposed amendment to the obsolete Problem Animal Control Ordinance which it alleged would ‘bring the legislation into line with the Constitution.’ After tinkering around the edges with the old ordinance, removing racial discrimination and some other obvious anomalies, the draftsman had stuck to the same old creed of declaring entire species as problem animals for the purposes of compulsory extermination. This new document, the MEC assured the Constitutional Court under oath, was part of conservation. Unfortunately, the Rules of Court did not allow me to answer the amicus curiae, or I would have been able to point out that the new law was as environmentally ruinous as the old. The proposed law had not been submitted to all interested parties for consultation as required by law, but had been prepared incestuously with the farmers as in the bad old days. The law was clearly contrary to our national legal obligations under the Biodiversity Convention. It assumes, wrongly, that there are no non-lethal methods of controlling damage-causing animals. As for the assertion that the gin trap, the poison, the barbed wire and

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all the other imaginative instances of hideous cruelty constitute ‘conservation,’ I'll leave comment on that to the reader. Finally, press-ganging land occupiers into joining the declared war on wildlife under pain of criminal sanction, either by law or by peer pressure, is not conservation. It is conscription. One would expect a conservation department to know the difference between conservation and conscription. Thus ended our forced march through the labyrinths of the South African conservation and criminal justice systems. Why have I taken the time and trouble to publish my experiences and comments? That is easy; to expose what I see as defects in both systems. If this stupid, stupid prosecution results in such exposure, then the agony and expense will have been justified. Meanwhile, our wildlife heritage continues to be massacred in the name of problem animal control pursuant to laws made when some people still thought that the earth was flat. South Africa has inherited a culture of violence and an official mindset of authoritarianism. In the conservation system, lethal methods of problem animal control and addiction to hunting are two expressions of that culture. In the justice system, the culture of violence is expressed through a rigid adherence to authoritarianism; regardless of the new democratic laws. The one will destroy our wildlife; the other our democracy. They deserve each other. I believe that wildcats and the citizens of South Africa deserve better from both.


Journal of the WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society, Summer 2010, Vol. III

Euthanasia: A Humane Alternative?


EUTHANASIA: A HUMANE ALTERNATIVE? Lisa Ann Tekancic WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society, Washington, DC Introduction Thousands and thousands of animals are killed around the world on a daily basis. They are killed for sport and entertainment. They are killed for their fur, for their skins, for their bones, for their meat. They are killed because they are dangerous, because they are a threat to livestock, because they are in the way of human growth and development. They are killed for experiments. They are killed because they are injured or sick. They are killed because we bred too many of them and it is too costly to keep them alive. They are killed because they are genetically useless even though they are healthy. They are killed simply because they are no longer wanted. To kill means to cause the death of a person, animal or other organism. But one word to describe the human action of taking the life of an animal is not sufficient. Depending on our reason and intent to end a life, we need a range of terms in order to either justify the killing or impose punishment for the killing. Those terms include slay (to kill a person or an animal); destroy (to kill something or somebody especially an animal); slaughter (to kill people brutally or to kill an animal for their meat); cull (a reduction of the numbers of an animal population achieved by killing some of its members); and exterminate (to kill or destroy something completely such as a species nearly exterminated by hunting). We use these terms to understand the nature of the killing within our social value system and these terms are generally accepted by most individuals. However, the term

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euthanasia derived from the Greek terms eu meaning good and thanatos meaning death to literally mean ‘a good death,’ a death that is painless and without distress;1 when used to end the life of an animal, raises serious ethical and moral questions and is laden with contradiction. There are hundreds of healthy domestic cats euthanized daily at animal shelters but when faced with the decision to put down a companion animal that is suffering from a terminal illness we do not want to make the decision to actively end his or her life. Zoological parks euthanize healthy lions and tigers because they were over bred and are not needed or wanted at other facilities. But a lion or tiger that is aging and infirm that is put down often initiates a public debate over whether the zoological park is properly managing their animal collections and questions whether the killing of this particular cat was justified. Is the question of euthanasia as a humane alternative only justified when employed to kill en masse regardless of whether the animals are healthy? Is the quality and integrity of an individual animal’s life ever a justification? We kill wildcats everyday for so many different reasons why does euthanasia elicit such an emotional and moral response? Is it because that although the method used in performing euthanasia is painless and without distress that it is essentially ‘animal murder?’ Because they are not being killed for sport, their fur, or their meat but are being killed to be killed? The American Veterinary Medical Association’s Guidelines on Euthanasia, (AVMA Guidelines) includes a section on the ‘human behavioral considerations’ in association with the euthanasia of animals. “When animals must be euthanized, either as individuals or in larger groups, moral and ethical concerns dictate that humane practices be observed. Human psychologic responses to euthanasia of animals need to be considered, with the grief at the loss of a life as the most common reaction.”2 The 1

See Merriam-Webster online dictionary available at 2 AMERICAN VETERINARY MEDICAL ASSOCIATION, AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia (formerly Report of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia), (June 2007).

Euthanasia: A Humane Alternative?


AVMA Guidelines cites six circumstances in which animal euthanasia affects individuals: 1) owners that have to make decisions about whether to euthanize; 2) animal care and control facilities where unwanted, homeless, diseased, and injured animals must be euthanized in large numbers; 3) laboratory facilities; 4) wildlife control; 5) livestock and poultry slaughter facilities; and 6) the public because euthanasia of zoo animals, animals involved in roadside or racetrack accidents, stranded marine animals, nuisance or injured wildlife, and others can draw public attention. Human attitudes and responses should be considered whenever animals are euthanized.3 This paper explores the circumstances and reasoning in which captive wildcats and other wildlife could be euthanized, were euthanized, and, in considering quality of life issues, should have been euthanized.

Wild Animal Trade & The World Conservation Union Illegal trade in live wild animals is an international commercial enterprise. Government agencies and control agents are tasked with what to do with live wild animals that are confiscated as a result. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) issued a set of guidelines for the placement of confiscated animals. “Within a conservation context, and the confines of national and international law, the ultimate decision on placement of confiscated animals must achieve three goals: 1) to maximize the conservation value of the animals without in any way endangering the health, behavioral repertories, generic characteristics, or conservation status of wild or captive populations of the species or any other wild living organism; 2) to discourage further illegal or irregular trade in the species; and 3) to provide a humane solution, whether this involves maintaining the animals in captivity, returning them to the wild, or employing euthanasia to destroy them.�4 3

Id. IUCN/SSC RE-INTRODUCTION SPECIALIST GROUP, IUCN Guidelines for the Placement of Confiscated Animals, (2002). 4

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In the section on euthanasia, the IUCN lists five benefits to euthanasia and only two risks. The benefits of euthanasia include: 1) With respect to the conservation of the species in question and of captive and wild population of animals, euthanasia carries far fewer risks (e.g. disease, genetic pollution, biological invasion) than maintenance in captivity or return to the wild. 2) Euthanasia may be the best (and only) possible solution to an acute problem with confiscated animals. Many possibilities for maintenance in captivity may not guarantee the animals’ welfare over the long term, and the survival prospects of animals returned to the wild are generally not high, as, depending on the circumstances, such animals often die of starvation, disease or predation. 3) Euthanasia acts to discourage the activities that gave rise to confiscation, as the animals in question are completely lost to the trade, with no chance of recovery by the traders involved. This removes any potential monetary gain from illegal trade. In addition, euthanasia may serve as a broader deterrent, in educating the public and other sectors about the serious and complex problems that can arise from trade in live wild animals. 4) The choice of euthanasia over maintenance in captivity or return to the wild offers an opportunity for confiscating authorities and other agencies to educate the public about more esoteric conservation problems, including those relating to invasive species and the potential negative consequences of releasing animals to the wild without adequate safeguards. Increased public awareness may generate additional ideas on placement of confiscated animals. 5) Euthanasia can be inexpensive as compared to other options. As such, it does not divert human and financial resources that could be allocated to other conservation or related activities, such as re-introduction

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or lifetime care of other animals or the conservation of threatened species in the wild. The risks of euthanasia include: 1) Just as there is potential positive educational value in employing euthanasia, there is a problem that it may give rise to negative perceptions of the confiscating authority for having taken that decision over other options. In such instances, there is a need to foresee such criticism and offer the rational for the decision to euthanize. 2) There is a risk of losing unique behavioral, genetic and ecological material within an individual or group of individuals that represent variation within a species and may be of value for the conservation of the species.5

Depending on the species, it appears that euthanasia is the preferred alternative over placement in a captive setting or release in the wild. All things considered, it is in the best interest of the animal, as the IUCN notes, that captivity does not necessarily guarantee the animals’ welfare over time and the chances of the animals’ survival if released in the wild is highly unlikely; it also immediately eliminates any long-term financial commitments. However, from a conservation perspective, it appears that the welfare of the species in the wild should take precedence over the welfare of individual animals.

Euthanasia of Surplus Zoo Animals The justifications for euthanasia as outlined by the IUCN are almost identical to the reasoning used by zoological parks to euthanize surplus animals in their collections. However, if zoological parks are managing their animal collections appropriately, why do they have issues with surplus animals to 5


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begin with? Since the animals are bred in controlled environments, which should eliminate questions of genetics and disease, why are they unable to send the animals to other zoo facilities? Since most zoological parks promote reintroduction schemes as a way to justify to the public their captive breeding programs, why can’t surplus animals be reintroduced to the wild? Why should euthanasia be considered an acceptable management tool? There are a number of reasons why zoological parks are faced with the issue of surplus animals which include: indiscriminate breeding within a collection; overrepresentation of a single bloodline; hand rearing animals that are too weak to survive on their own, and neonates that were rejected by their mothers. Additionally, animals in zoo collections out live their wild comrades since most zoos provide stable diets, medical care and protection that eliminate disease, starvation and predation. Whether surplus animals are a result of any these conditions, space and financial resources to care for them over the course of their lifetime, will always be weighed against their contribution to save the species they represent versus saving a few individual lives. What options do zoological parks have when dealing with the issue of surplus animals, especially exotic or endangered species? The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) members are concerned about the placement of surplus animals in other institutions or to dealers if they are not accredited by the AZA. Additionally, other commercial venues including but not limited to circuses, private owners, roadside attractions, animal auctions, hunting/shooting preserves, game and fur farms, are likewise not considered as suitable options for placement of surplus animals. An obvious acceptable method of disposal of zoo surplus is to AZA-accredited zoos‌.The most important example of zoo cooperation in North America is the Species Survival Plan (SSP). Started in 1981, the SSP’s function is to recommend the number of institutions over which a species should be distributed as well as which animals

Euthanasia: A Humane Alternative?


should reproduce, be maintained, or be removed from the population. It also provides monitoring and sharing of research on animal social needs, reproductive physiology, and effective husbandry techniques….Zoos that participate in the SSP agree to abide by the decisions of the committee…6

If the animal cannot be placed within the SSP is reintroduction an available option? While the question of genetics and disease is removed from animals bred in captivity at zoological parks, the same issues that the IUCN raises with respect to reintroduction of confiscated animals arise. The animal needs to be trained to survive on its own; the availability of protected native habitats is increasingly rare; and lack of available financial resources to fund a reintroduction program, all contribute to making the option of reintroduction a futile and frivolous endeavor, especially when euthanasia is viewed as an acceptable practice. In 1987, the executive director of the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums (now known as the AZA) issued a set of guidelines in addressing the question of euthanasia. “These guidelines stated that euthanasia as a management tool is a necessary part of animal management.”7 Essentially the message for zoological parks engaged in captive breeding of any animal (endangered or not) is “breeding inescapably creates surplus, and this surplus must be dealt with in the best interests of the species rather than the best interests of the individuals.”8

The Detroit Zoo and the Euthanasia Issue In 1982, the Detroit Zoo faced the controversy of euthanasia both locally and nationally when they decided to 6

STEVE GRAHAM, Issues of Surplus Animals, WILD ANIMALS IN CAPTIVITY: PRINCIPLES AND TECHNIQUES 292 (D. G. Kleiman, et. al., eds. 1996). 7 Id. at 294. 8 Id.

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euthanize three of their Siberian tigers that were suffering from severe disabilities: The zoo received hundreds of protest phone calls and letters, a national animal rights group sent representatives to Detroit to castigate the zoo, and a resident of Detroit filed suit to prevent the zoo from carrying out the euthanasia plan. The judge rendered a decision favoring the zoo on the basis that zoo officials had acted responsibly rather than capriciously in planning the euthanasia. By the time the controversy ended, the right of zoo managers to manage the animal collection (at least in Detroit) had been affirmed, and the media as well as the vast majority of the public in Detroit had accepted the validity of the zoo’s action. At issue in Detroit in 1982 were three ailing tigers. In 1985, the Detroit Zoo euthanized four healthy tigers because they were not accepted into the Siberian tiger SSP. The rationale was that with four spaces for tigers available in the zoo, it was logical and indeed imperative, that those spaces be occupied by individuals acceptable to the SSP. Compared with the strong public reaction in 1982, there was hardly a stir in 1985. In 1986 a Detroit newspaper published an article on euthanasia at the zoo and emphasized the recent culling of two male lions. It appeared to be an attempt to sensationalize, but it evoked little public reaction—and attendance at the Detroit Zoo in 1986 was the highest in years. Subsequent newspaper articles in 1989 and 1990 were also basically ignored by the public. It is of critical importance that decisions regarding disposition of animals be made by professionals and not by the media or by animal rights groups. In the early 1980s a major North American zoo planned the euthanasia of a surplus tiger. When this became known to the public through the media, an individual came forward to donate funds, and a new exhibit was built specifically for this one animal. Such an action is professionally reprehensible

Euthanasia: A Humane Alternative?


because it places more importance upon the individual than upon the species, it wastes funds that could be used in a more productive fashion, and it implies to the public that zoo managers should not be allowed to make decisions with regard to animal dispositions.9

The Magdeburg Zoo Unlike the outcome in the Detroit Zoo case in which the judge found in favor of the zoo’s decision to euthanize their tigers, in June 2010, a German court found the director and three employees of the Magdeburg Zoo guilty of breaking animal rights’ laws finding that there were no sufficient reasons to kill less valuable but totally healthy animals. The zoo director was imposed a fine of $11,400.00 (8,100 Euros). The zoo made the decision to euthanize the tiger cubs when they learned that the father was a mix of two different subspecies and not a pure Siberian tiger and viewed the cubs as not worth the expense, care requirements, and space needed to keep the three tiger cubs alive. Like the AZA, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) in a statement “supports the decision by the Magdeburg Zoo to put the tiger cubs to sleep, calling it ‘reasonable’ and ‘scientifically-supported action.’ With the purpose of safe-guarding a ‘viable’ captive population of endangered species, zoos must sometimes make difficult decisions.”10 The WAZA statement continued to state that conservation management takes on many forms and can, on occasion, include the euthanasia of individuals. Humane euthanasia, a component of population management, and based on scientific analysis of the ex situ (captive population) to ensure its long-term sustainability, is supported by WAZA as acceptable.


Id. JEREMY HANCE, Guilty Verdict Over Euthanizing Tigers in Germany Touches Off Debate About Roles of Zoos, MONGABAY.COM (August 11, 2010), available at 10

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Considering the continued difficulty with protecting and preserving the natural habitat of endangered and threatened big cats, the logistical challenges and financial resources needed to implement a successful reintroduction program; the public debate with respect euthanasia as an accepted management tool by government agencies and zoological parks that are tasked with dealing with surplus big cats whether they were confiscated, donated, or a result of over breeding, needs to continue. But the argument needs to shift to one involving the actual necessity of having so many of these cats bred privately or in zoos. The use of captive breeding in species recovery has grown enormously in recent years, but without a concurrent growth in its limitations….Captive breeding for recovery purposes (i.e. for ultimate reintroductions to the wild) should not be confused with captive breeding for other purposes such as exhibit, conservation education, or research. Although these latter captive breeding programs may also have conservation value, they have quite different characteristics and entail different precautions. Our primary conclusion is that captive breeding has a legitimate role to play in the recovery of only a limited number of endangered species and should be employed only when other viable alternatives are unavailable. When it is employed, it should always be tightly coupled with recovery objectives for wild populations and should not be proposed as a long-term solution.11

The IUCN, AZA, and WAZA all recognize and admit that the chances of these animals being released back into the wild are virtually non-existent. If wild animals are only going to be kept in captivity, then breeding programs need to be adjusted to correlate with the animal’s captive longevity and the total captive population. As Graham points out “it is recommended that a Siberian tiger be bred only twice in its lifetime. At 12 years 11

NOEL F. R. SNYDER, ET AL., Limitations of Captive Breeding in Endangered Species Recovery, 10 CONSERVATION BIOLOGY 2, 338-389 (April 1996).

Euthanasia: A Humane Alternative?


of age it is considered surplus to the population.”12 Zoos and other commercial agents that breed and exhibit wildcats under the guise of conservation and education, are increasingly being viewed solely as agents for entertainment and are doing little if nothing with respect to conservation. The rationale and justification for ‘killing’ healthy animals due to genetic viability seems to be increasingly obsolete, since the chances that any captive big cats, will actually be released into the wild and mate with existing wild populations, is less than zero.

Euthanasia and Quality of Life The IUCN, AZA, WAZA, and zoological parks view the disposition of surplus animals in terms of the species as a whole and not the individual animals, especially when euthanasia is used to terminate the lives of healthy animals. There is another issue to consider with respect to the euthanasia of wild animals and that is terminating the life of animals that are diseased, seriously injured, or conflicted with multiple physical and psychological issues due to old age. As living beings it is in our nature to want to live; to survive. But we know we are going to eventually die. Most individuals are concerned with how they will die and not that death will occur. But who decides a universal definition or a set of criteria to determine quality of life? How can we quantify and qualify the threshold of pain when tolerances very greatly or the exact amount of loss of cognitive and physical function that raises quality of life questions? There are as many definitions of quality of life as there are individuals. So how can we attempt to define what quality of life means for wildcats held in captivity? We know that animals feel and experience pain. What we will never know is how they conceptualize their pain and how it affects their natural instincts. Should these questions coupled with holding lions and tigers or any large predatory carnivore in a 12

Supra note 7.

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captive environment be viewed as a violation of the cat’s integrity? Should euthanasia of captive wildcats only be considered in relation to the severity of their disease, injury, or stage of infirmity? Can the same equation be applied to situations in which the cats are severely abused and neglected—our collective failure to provide them with a captive existence that is worth living since we indiscriminately breed them? Is it possible to equate and reconcile a very human view that it is better to live a sad unhealthy life then to die, to cats that are literally being tortured to death? In March 2010, The Times of India reported that at least eleven Siberian tigers starved to death at the Shenyang Forest Wild Life Zoo, a private zoo in the northeast Liaoning province in China, due to lack of financial resources to care for the big cats.13 The process of starvation is a relatively slow and painful death. The tiger’s body will start to deal with malnutrition by breaking down its own fat, followed by tissue and muscle, and will eventually lose half of its normal body weight. The symptoms of starvation include: a reduction in the size of vital organs and loss of their functions; anemia; chronic diarrhea; reduction in muscle mass and weakness; lowered body temperature and extreme sensitivity to cold; decreased ability to digest any food due to lack of digestive acid; irritability; immune deficiency; and swelling from fluid build up under the skin. The final stages of starvation include a host of neurological and psychiatric symptoms including hallucinations and convulsions as well as severe muscle pain and weakness, and disturbances in heart rhythms. It takes up to three months for starvation to result in death. In this situation, could euthanasia be viewed as a humane alternative? An ultimate act of kindness to relieve these tigers of 13 See 11 Siberian Tigers Starved to Death After Assault on Keeper at China Zoo, THE TIMES OF INDIA, (March, 11, 2010), available at

Euthanasia: A Humane Alternative?


a life that is essentially not worth living—a fate worse than death? How can we reconcile the view that it is better to live a sad unhealthy life then to die when death would actually be a blessing? What kind of life did these tigers have? Were they even provided a captive existence that was worth living? Breeding tigers solely for commercial purposes and not having the financial resources to care for them and intentionally allowing them to starve to death and not intervening is reprehensible. Intervening in this situation before the tigers had to endure such a torturous and painful death should never be questioned on a higher moral ground not when the tigers could have been provided a painless alternative. The real question here is how hideously painful does death need to be? Death can be peaceful or we can purposely make them suffer solely because our mixed up sense of morality is imposed upon an innocent life.

Conclusion The question of whether euthanasia is a humane alternative has no definitive answer. Yet we still need to continue to question the justifications and actions of those who are in charge of maintaining captive populations of wildlife and those entrusted with enforcing the regulations and laws applicable to exhibitors, breeders and dealers. However, euthanasia should only be considered as a last resort and only for animals that are truly suffering. Terminating the life of healthy animals due to purely economic factors should always be challenged by the public. The debate should not just be limited to what is in the best interest of the species as a whole. Because there are so many wildcats and other wild animals living in so many different captive environments it is necessary to include in that debate what is in the best interest of individual animals along with quality of life issues. Using euthanasia as a management tool for confiscated, surplus, and unwanted animals is a ‘reactive’ response—there are less questionable and more active approaches available—one is simply to end indiscriminate breeding.

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Impressions & Prose


IMPRESSIONS & PROSE Chris Wright, Wildlife Artist† London, England UK

Sumatran Sultan 2010, PENCIL ON PAPER †

Additional information on Mr. Wright, private commissions, and to purchase limited edition prints of Sumatran Sultan, please visit:

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Sumatran tiger “Roque,” was rescued by the Born Free Foundation from a Spanish pet shop, where he was being illegally traded as a cub. Since being re-homed in 2002 to an infinitely more suitable environment at Born Free’s tiger sanctuary in southern India, Roque has grown into the magnificent adult that inspired this drawing, and in honor of the Chinese Year of the Tiger. ****** A self-taught artist born and raised in Norfolk, Chris Wright now lives in South-East London, combining his two main passions—working as a professional artist and also as Senior Programmes Officer for the Born Free Foundation, specializing in the conservation of tigers and great apes. Shortlisted for the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year awards 2010, at which his work was Highly Commended, Chris’ reputation continues to grow internationally, selling to clients from Switzerland to the U.S. and from the UK to Australia. Chris’ debut one-man show at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Birmingham was a sell-out, and he has made regular sales at the annual National Exhibition of Wildlife Art in Chester, where he has just been selected to exhibit for the fourth consecutive year. An Associate of The Wildlife Art Society International, Chris was awarded a Gold Citation in 2010. Chris has travelled extensively throughout Africa, Central America, Europe and Asia, enjoying first-hand encounters with many of the animals that now inspire his work—and to whose conservation he is committed through his work with Born Free. Part of his commitment to protecting endangered species includes donating a percentage of his art profits to Born Free’s project work to help keep wildlife where it belongs – in the wild.



Journal of the WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society, Summer 2010, Vol. III  

The Journal provides a unique forum for professionals and scholars to analyze and comment on the issues affecting wildcats around the world,...

Journal of the WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society, Summer 2010, Vol. III  

The Journal provides a unique forum for professionals and scholars to analyze and comment on the issues affecting wildcats around the world,...