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In April 2005 Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, announced the appointment of a Panel of Experts to advise him on the appropriate regulatory framework on recreational and professional hunting. The panel was tasked with proposing a draft set of norms and standards for professional and recreational hunting, as well as exploring various policy and legal options needed to control the South African hunting industry. The panel comprised conservation and environmental ethics experts and included the NSPCA Executive Director, Marcelle Meredith, who represented animal welfare.
While the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) recognises that hunting per se is entrenched in South Africa as part of sustainable utilisation of natural resources, it was also aware of the shortcomings regarding ethical and humane practices within the industry that were compounded by the lack of co-ordinated enforcement.
Through the consultative process set up by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, the NSPCA proposed that the hunting industry, in all its facets, be regulated and controlled on a national level by a system that is simple, transparent and effective. It was proposed that, in addition to appropriate legislation, Government needed to set national standards and regulations to ensure uniformity in the application of legislation countrywide, which could then be enforced by the provincial conservation authorities.
The practice of canned hunting, irrespective of species hunted, is regarded as unethical and directly linked to animal abuse that is unacceptable by society at large. It was without hesitation that the NSPCA requested Government to simply ban, through national legislation, the practice of canned hunting in all its forms, as well as the breeding of any large predators for any other reason than bona fide conservation projects.
It was further proposed that any form of hunting that did not involve a free-living and self-sustaining animal with a fair chase and chance of escape should be considered “canned”.
In the context of professional and recreational hunting the humane treatment of animals cannot be ensured without including the breeding, transportation and holding standards of wildlife in the related game industry.
Animals raised under the control of humans or taken into captivity by humans should be afforded the provisions of the basic Five Freedoms, being adopted increasingly throughout the animal welfare world.
Following the consultative process with interested and affected parties, appropriate subject matter research, the appointed Panel of Experts was required to submit its findings and recommendations to Minister van Schalkwyk by the end of October 2005. Notification was thereafter received that the new legislation, National Environmental Management : Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act 10 of 2004) : Commencement of Threatened or Protected Species Regulations, 2007 would come into effect on 1 June 2007.
However, following presentations by some Provincial MECs around the challenges in implementing these regulations by 1 June, the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism announced on 4 May 2007 that the regulations would only come into force on 1 February 2008.
The NSPCA expressed its concerns in writing to the Minister that the delay in implementation would give unscrupulous lion farmers the leeway to try and hunt out their “stock” during this interim period, and that canned hunting would likely continue. The NSPCA urged that a moratorium on canned hunting – lion hunting in particular – be declared until the regulations come into force. This did not happen.
The regulations were introduced in 2008, in part, to regulate the hunting of captive raised predators. Lions were removed from the list of “large predators” after the South African Predator Breeders’ Association (SAPBA) announced its intentions to challenge the regulations in the High Court.
The NSPCA commissioned a report on lions in captivity and lion hunting in South Africa (published March 2009) and was joined by other animal welfare, animal rights and conservations organisations to form an NGO Alliance Grouping, which made representation to the Department of Environmental Affairs in July 2009 requesting its urgent attention in dealing with the major welfare crisis facing more than 3,500 lions held captive in South Africa and in addressing their quality of life and their future.
A report commissioned by the NSPCA: Lions in Captivity and Lion Hunting in South Africa
The four-year court battle initiated by SAPBA ended in 2010 when a Bloemfontein-based Supreme Court of Appeal ruled against the Minister of Environmental Affairs in favour of SAPBA concerning the hunting of captive bred lions. SAPBA had challenged the inclusion of lions in the Threatened or Protected Species Regulations and the 24-month period in which captive-bred predators had to fend for themselves before they could be hunted. The ruling meant that the 24-month rewilding period to prevent canned hunting could not be enforced.
This was bitter news for the captive-bred lions of South Africa.