Canned Lion Shooting Revisited
February 2014, Volume 12-1

In the previous issue of African Indaba, we discussed canned lion shooting under the title Hunting or Shooting: What is it to be? We wanted to provoke a reaction, and indeed, we succeeded. PHASA, the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa circulated an email on 19th December 2013. The email did not reach the authors directly, nor was it addressed to African Indaba; we received it in copy from a PHASA member. Our readers may be interested what PHASA had to say, and here it is:

SHOOTING OR HUNTING:  CALL IT WHAT YOU LIKE – PHASA HAS A DUTY TO BE INVOLVED

The issue of lion hunting is both topical and emotive, and it is a pity that Messrs Damm and Flack have elected not to make a constructive contribution to the public debate on this subject but have instead produced a polemic which is factually inaccurate and fundamentally misrepresents PHASA’s position.

The authors’ attack on PHASA is based on their confusion between canned hunting and the hunting of captive-bred lions.   These are not the same:  canned hunting, which is illegal in South Africa, is when the animal is hunted while it is drugged or in an enclosed hunting area too small for the lion to evade the hunter; in captive-bred hunting, the animal is released into an extensive wildlife system to be hunted in accordance with South Africa’s strict and explicit regulations.

PHASA is now, and always has been, strongly opposed to canned hunting and will act against any of its members who engage in this activity.  PHASA will continue to work with the government and the law enforcement agencies to eradicate this practice.  This position was reaffirmed at its annual general meeting in December 2013.

PHASA’s position on captive bred hunting was, prior to our 2013 AGM, covered by the following policy: “PHASA supports the responsible hunting of all species in a sustainable wildlife system, in which animals can fend for themselves, provided that they are hunted in accordance with the laws of the land and PHASA’s own code of conduct.”

There have however been a number of developments that necessitated a review of our 2006 position, as stipulated in the previous paragraph, on captive-bred hunting.  First, the South African Predator Breeders’ Association (SAPA) won its appeal against the Minister of Environmental Affairs in 2010, effectively ending any attempts to stop the practice in South Africa; second, the Department of Environmental Affairs has itself significantly softened its stance on the activity, calling it sustainable; and third, demand for lion hunting continues to grow.

Given this growth in demand, the fact that captive-bred lion hunting was deemed legal and sustainable by our courts and government, and the potential risks that continued unethical hunting practices in the captive-bred hunting industry posed to traditional trophy hunting, we resolved at our 2011 AGM that it would be a dereliction of our duties to simply distance ourselves from the practice while ignoring continued unethical hunting and the damage this could cause to the reputation of all trophy hunting activities.

As such, we entered into a dialogue with SAPA to improve the conditions in which lions are reared and hunted, and over the two year period we have helped SAPA draw up a set of norms which we believe is a good starting point to ensure that captive-bred lion hunting is carried out responsibly.

There are too many distortions and inaccuracies in the article by Messrs Damm and Flack to deal with individually – it is worth noting that the only authority they cite for their assertions is one of their own articles – and readers who would like to know more about PHASA’s policies and principles are welcome to contact me.

Hermann Meyeridricks
PHASA president
For further information contact Adri Kitshoff, PHASA chief executive, on 083 650 0442

We suggest that our readers assess the PHASA statement in conjunction with a statement which can be found on a website called SAMPEO. SAMPEO is an acronym for South Africa’s Most Professional and Experienced Outfitters; the group consists of eight senior professional hunters, all currently members of PHASA in good standing and their respective outfitting companies (see www.sampeo.co.za for the names of individual SAMPEO members). Here is the SAMPEO statement:

SOUTH AFRICA’S MOST PROVEN AND EXPERIENCED OUTFITTERS (SAMPEO Est. 2011) STANCE ON CAPTIVE BRED / CANNED LION HUNTING
We, hunting outfitters and members in good standing of PHASA, feel compelled to express our views on the recent decision by PHASA to support the shooting of canned/captive bred lions.
This represents a reversal of the decision by PHASA in 1999 and reiterated in 2006 with regard to the practice of shooting canned/captive bred lions and as such, we unanimously and unequivocally:
1.        Condemn the immoral practice of canned/captive bred lion shooting, where lions are bred for the SOLE purpose of being killed by paying clients and play no meaningful contribution to wildlife conservation, financial or otherwise that aids the species the African Lion (Panthera leo) in its natural state.
2.        See no meaningful distinction between the terms “canned” or “captive bred” lion.
3.        Believe that the shooting of lion, bred and raised in breeding facilities and subsequently released for a period agreed by PHASA and SAPA of 7 days prior to the shoot commencing, is reprehensible.
4.        Do not believe that the adoption by PHASA of the SAPA norms and standards for the shooting of canned/captive bred lions can be considered fair chase hunting. Where the animal is self-sustaining, can feed naturally, breed naturally and has a chance of evading the hunter. None of these criteria are met.
5.        The inability of both Associations to police the current norms and standards, due to both being “voluntary” Associations and not “statutory” bodies is a major concern. As no sway is held over “non-members” to either Association
6.        We believe the practice is degrading to the African Lion, which is an iconic and regal symbol of all African wildlife.
The activities of a few have severely tarnished the reputation of our industry. They have caused major harm to those of us who are committed to acceptable hunting practices that enhance the already significant conservation efforts that have been and are made by hunting in South Africa.

We note that PHASA states that our article is “polemic … factually inaccurate and fundamentally misrepresents PHASA’s position” and that there are “too many distortions and inaccuracies in the article … to deal with individually”. For his statement to be seen as anything other than playing the man instead of the ball, it would require a detailed statement, not only in support of the contentions of PHASA, but an explanation of how the opinions expressed by Damm and Flack differ from those of some senior PHASA members, amongst them former presidents and vice presidents of the association, as shown in the SAMPEO statement. The attentive reader will note that the authors of the PHASA statement also choose not quote the two official PHASA policy statements on canned shooting (1999 and 2006) mentioned by Damm and Flack.

African Indaba readers may also be interested that Damm quoted David Mabunda, SANParks CEO in a presentation made at the 2011 PHASA AGM. Mabunda’s words were a direct citation from the concluding section of Peter Flack’s acclaimed book The South African Conservation Success Story and the corresponding documentary CD, which was launched in March 2011 in Johannesburg with PHASA, WRSA, CHASA, SAHGCA, amongst others as promoters. Mabunda’s clear message said

 … despite the benefits hunting and wildlife ranching have brought to South Africa, the future of wildlife and its conservation in this country may well be at crossroads … [with] a land and wildlife conservation model that [enfranchises] large numbers of previously disenfranchised people lacking, … [when] a significant rise in canned and put & take killings has tarnished the image of hunting, and … [when]new entrants to South African game ranching have brought with them methods from the domestic livestock industry.

Damm recalls that the reaction of the audience was mixed – some applauding, and a few calling for his removal from the floor. During the same AGM, the president of PHASA announced that a dialogue with the SA Predators’ Breeders was on the agenda; if we recall correctly, he put it on the agenda in order to make the breeders accept PHASA standards, and not vice versa.

Seasoned African Indaba readers know that our E-Newsletter reports about lion hunting and conservation, including canned lion shooting, from the time Damm conceptualized and started African Indaba in 2003. In many articles we supported and actually praised PHASA for their clear policy statements against canned shooting (if you are interested you can go to the African Indaba archives and download every single issue). We argued the case of regulated and sustainable wild lion hunting, but we cannot and will not cave in on our view of killing captive bred  and raised lions for the sake of economic benefits for a few. To paraphrase PHASA – hunting or shooting, call it what you like, African Indaba will stay involved!

Authors: Gerhard Damm and Peter Flack