Since the atrocious killing of Cecil the lion, people around the world have been up in arms vying for justice. The death of the iconic lion has brought to light the lucrative, fast-growing industry of canned hunting. For many, including myself, the coined term had not been a part of my vocabulary until recently. Blood Lions is a call-for-action documentary with its hard-hitting revelations on the commercialised trade of lion breeding.
Produced by Pippa Hankinson and conservation journalist Ian Michler, the film is unparalleled to any documentary of its kind. While taking account of the advantages of the industry – in terms of improving on conservation, having sustainable use and uplifting communities through job creation, Michler and his team are able to denounce these arguments by exposing a stark, macabre reality.
Whether it be through lion farms or sanctuaries, the life span of these captive-bred lions are wholly unnatural. From three days old, lions are taken from their mothers to be hand-reared by humans. Reasons for doing so are two-fold; to intensify the breeding patterns of the lioness (who would normally look after her cubs for a period of 18 months in the wild) and to habituate the cubs with humans.
Under the guise of conservation, volunteers are led to believe that they’re playing a part in rehabilitating ‘orphaned’ cubs, but are unknowingly rearing them to be bred for the bullet.
What falls under the umbrella term canned hunting often appears a little blurred and open to interpretation. According to the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, the term is defined as ‘any form of hunting where a predator is tranquillised, artificially lured by sound, scent, visual stimuli, feeding, bait… for the purpose of hunting that predator’. In essence, the lion is ensnared by physical barriers or through deception without the possibility of escape. Furthermore, a kill is a guaranteed outcome.
While canned hunting is outlawed in South Africa, gaping loopholes have allowed for the continued guaranteed kills of so-called rehabilitated captive lions. After giving them a mere four days to adapt to the wild, hunters are able to easily track down and legally hunt the weakened predators. Breeding in captivity has left these lions unmatched to a new, foreign surrounding.
The film is fuelled by candid scenes which sees Michler and his team in precarious situations while attempting to uncover the whole truth. From near-explosive stand offs between canned-lion farmers who accuse them of being undercover ‘greenies’ to Rick The Hunter’s first-hand experience of the sport and hunting conventions in America, the film sheds light on a dirty little secret which has evaded the public eye for too long.