Blood Lions is to hunters what An Inconvenient Truth is to climate change denialists.
This documentary feature film investigates the murky world of lion hunting in South Africa and reveals a thriving industry that deals in misery and amorality.
Most international hunters who come to South Africa are oblivious to the history of their coveted lion trophies. In this timely film Ian Michler, the investigative journalist, and Rick Swazey, an American hunter, shine a spotlight on a sordid tale of animal suffering and charlatan hunting operators. Apart from Michler, Swazey and the steadfast cameraman there are no heroes in this story.
Lion breeding is big business in South Africa. There are an estimated 8,000 lions living in captivity on breeding farms, in small and cramped enclosures. They display obvious signs of inbreeding and stress.
Hand-reared by volunteers, who are none the wiser to the fate of the cats, the felines grow up with no fear of humans. On the contrary, humans are their meal-tickets, the ‘other’ that brings food into their enclosure. If anything, in the subjectivity of the cat, humans are benefactors.
Bred for the bullet
But the point of this lion-breeding story of smoke and mirrors is the fact that trophy hunting is big business.
Trophy animals are listed on easy-to-find websites and bring in anything between $10,000 and $35,000 per animal. In 2014 alone 800 animals were killed amounting to a minimum of $8 million at the conservative end of the scale. And while the money they earn is the point; it also isn’t.
Shooting a habituated animal requires little skill other than aiming straight. The hunts are so contrived (in some cases the animal is sedated) there is no real bush experience. For those in the know, it’s a quick hit that has little to do with being in the magic of the African bush. In fact, it’s a downright hoax.
All this is exposed by Swazey as he masquerades as a would-be hunter.
And so while the misery of the animals is highlighted so too is the charade that this type of hunting represents. It’s not sport in any meaning of the word. The Professional Hunting Association of South Africa is so ashamed of these captive bred lion hunts that it has officially distanced itself from them, due in no mean measure to the Blood Lions exposé. Captive-bred lion hunting is a blemish on South Africa and the entire hunting industry.
Like the abolitionist movement that shone a light into the dark soul of mankind, so Blood Lions holds a steady spotlight on the abusive nature of some human beings.
As uncomfortable as it may be, this is a must-see movie for all people of goodwill.
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