Lord Ashcroft revealed the sordid details of this lucrative industry, which is common in South Africa, through his year-long investigation.
Trigger Warning: This story contains graphic detail of animal abuse that the readers may find disturbing
The news about thousands of lions being bred in sickening farms only to be slaughtered by wealthy trophy hunters has caused an immense outrage. The cruelty involved in this lucrative industry, which is common in South Africa, was exposed following a year-long investigation by businessman and philanthropist Lord Ashcroft in his book Unfair Game: An Exposé Of South Africa's Captive-Bred Lion Industry. Ashcroft reportedly criticized the British government for failing to ban imported trophy skins and considers it complicit in the trade. While some of the lions are killed to extract bones for "medicines," its parts are sold as trinkets in the Far East for huge sums of money.
Speaking about this repulsive so-called sport, Ashcroft revealed that the helpless animals are shot inside fenced areas by wealthy trophy hunters, including Britons who are ready to pay hefty amounts of money to slaughter the poor animals just for thrills. In addition to this, several others are transported to filthy slaughterhouses and held in shocking conditions until they are shot in the head and butchered, reports Daily Mail. During Ashcroft’s undercover investigation, it was revealed that 54 lions were murdered in slaughterhouses that are called "eco-farms" in just two days.
It was disclosed that the skin of lions was smuggled into the United States through Britain by having them hidden inside deer skins to evade customs officials and go undetected. In addition to lions, tigers were also being "crossbred in captivity in a sickening bid to squeeze greater profits from the barbaric bone trade, conservationists claim," revealed the probe. Moreover, they found that a British City worker had paid thousands of pounds to take down a magnificent lion with tranquilizer darts which was apparently a breach of South African law. Disturbing images show innards and bones of the animals scattered all over the floor, while other parts of their bodies were seen stacked up in overflowing plastic bags.
Customers are attracted by emailed brochures that have photos of male lions they can choose from to hunt and kill in an enclosed area. These hunters pay anywhere between £10,000 to £42,300 for the disgusting experience. According to the undercover operation of Ashcroft’s, around 80% of "canned lion hunting" takes place in South Africa’s north-west province. Ashcroft’s extensive probe centered around a majestic 11-year-old lion named Simba who has been tragically bred in captivity. The animal has been used as an object more than anything to attract foreign hunters who are seeking prime specimens to kill. Simba's fate might have been the same as many other wild cats, who have been slaughtered just for kicks if it wasn't for the efforts of undercover investigators to rescue him.
During operation Simba, the team discovered that the animal belonged to Patrick de Beer, who owned Mugaba Safaris. In a WhatsApp message, he described the animals as "a very good cat with a dense mane." De Beer also told The Mail on Sunday that the hunts that take place on the property are in compliance with the rules governing the conduct of a chase. Simba was supposed to be hunted in October at the Kalahari Lion Hunting Safaris, owned by Freddie Scheepers, but the "hunter" backed out of the deal as he had no intention of killing the lion. Simba was then offered to Miles Wakefield, a British hunter, who paid about £3,000 to pursue him through an enclosed hunting area before shooting the animal with two powerful tranquilizer darts.
Heartwrenching pictures show the scared and confused lion staggered through the bushes before collapsing suddenly. 48-year-old Wakefield, who is an insurance company worker in London, said that he had been "misled" by the safari owners and though he was taking part in a legal conservation operation, reports Metro. Lord Ashcroft’s team engaged in a two-month battle hoping to free Simba from Scheepers' ranch. They were finally able to do so after paying $2,000 and employing a transport company and a vet to humanely sedate the wild animal and release him. Footage shows the team releasing Simba in a secret location as one of them shouts, "Yay Simba!"
Investigators also revealed that 12,000 lions have been bred and raised in the farms. This practice has outnumbered wild lions in South Africa by about four to one. Now, South Africa is the only country that allows breeding of lions on a large-scale. The greed to make more money has ended up allegedly luring the South African breeders to cross-breed lions and tigers. Although this process led to the birth defects and early deaths, it wasn't stopped due to the immense weight of the hybrid cats’ bones which meant more ‘medicine’ could be made from them.