Whilst browsing a retail store today I got chatting to the store manager about my adventures in Africa during the past few years. Upon saying that I had been working at a Lion Protection Trust in South Africa, her immediate response was “awwww so you got to play with all the little lions and tigers?!”
My immediate response was “wow. Really?!”
Whilst I spend every day researching and writing and educating and exploring, and whilst my family and friends and all those around me know that by petting that lion you are fuelling the canned hunting industry and that poor little cubs fate is sealed in the form of a bullet, there is a much bigger circle that I wasn’t fully considering.
I thought that in this day and age, where everything is so readily available on the internet, that people would be a lot more clued up about what I assumed was common knowledge by now. But obviously not.
After getting the response that I did from this woman, and watching her face turn from absolute excitement and awe when she thought that I was “playing with lions and tigers” to a blank and confused expression as I told her the truth behind the cub petting industry, it dawned on me that whilst millions of people are aware of the terrible truth, there are still billions who have no idea.
And these are the people that we need to find, because they are the ones who will still go to these places unknowingly and have that “bucket-list” moment and capture that “Facebook popular” image, and these are the people who are ensuring that this terrible practice continues.
So for those of you who are still unaware, the cub petting industry is directly linked to the canned hunting industry, which is an industry for hunters who either want to pay a smaller fee to shoot a lion, don’t have the time to track a lion properly, aren’t skilled hunters so need an easy target, or want to select the lion with the most impressive appearance from an online catalogue beforehand.
So where do those lions come from?
- Thousands of lions cubs are taken away from their mothers every year, when they are just a few weeks old, or in some cases even a few days old. This is highly distressing for both the cub and the mother who has just lost her child. However, due to heavy demand, the female is forced to reproduce again and again to produce even more cubs, which has awful health implications both for the mother and the new cubs.
- Hundreds of people then visit these cub petting facilities every day to interact and cuddle these young cubs, until they are too big to pet or be deemed “cute”.
- Workers at these facilities tell each and every visitor that these lions will then be going to good homes – this is a lie.
- They are going to the canned hunting industry to be shot. So these lions that you are told you are saving, are very literally, bred for the bullet.
If you are skeptical about these places because you have heard workers assure you or your friends that these lions are well looked after, and that you are helping conservation by visiting them, then just stop and ask yourself…
- How is it that these places have a constant supply of so many cubs, no matter what time of year you visit?
- Why is it that you must pay a fee to have your photo taken and to cuddle with these cubs, and not a donation to a registered charity?
- Why is it that it is never explained to you where your money goes…do you even ask?
- If there are so many lions here and so many facilities the same as this one, and all of these lions are going to be released into the wild, how is it that lions in the wild are currently at their lowest numbers ever, with a predicted extinction in just a few years?
Just some thoughts for you to ponder…