Inside Kevin’s head
Anyone else reading Kevin’s REALLY long Instagram posts? You know the ones that are “continued in the comments”? These aren’t just random writings because Kevin has time on his hands, these are often ideas and concerns that he has thought about for weeks. Some ideas are pretty challenging to the status quo. Some ideas really deserve to be read properly and considered. We have decided to curate some of Kevin’s posts into a standard newsletter piece, so that you don’t miss out on what’s going on in Kevin’s head.
Today’s topic: Euthanization and NGOs
These pictures are of George and Yame who were rescued from Spain in 2014, 7+ years ago. Would I offer to take lions like them again? Probably not. Why you ask? Well if you want to know and have a few spare minutes, read on. #longpost.
The initial euphoria around their rescue was palpable and many people banded together to raise funds to see their safe arrival at my sanctuary. They were welcomed by an entourage at the airport, and our email inbox exploded with people who had donated towards their relocation demanding to know how they were getting on. Sadly, 7+ years on and only a few people contact us regularly about their well-being. And so the responsibility of these lions lies squarely in my lap, as does majority of George’s health expenses due to the malnutrition he suffered in the first few months. The excitement of the rescue inevitably dwindles in each and every case, as people move on to the next immediate rescue and the life-long term care of the animal is often forgotten about.
We’ve all heard the words ‘every life matters’ being thrown around in conservation/rescue circles. But do they, and more importantly, can they? Currently there are most likely more than 12,000 lions in captivity in SA. The lion industry has been permitted to grow to these numbers unchecked, and worse, supported by our government, as new permits continued to be issued and renewed. Farms that weren’t legally operating were given permits and brought up to date, and even farms where welfare of the lions continued to be an issue were somehow brought in line. Lion breeders invested large sums of money into the lucrative lion industry which includes cub petting, ‘walking with lions’ experiences, trade in live animals, trade in lion bone (and parts) and of course the infamous ‘canned’ hunting industry. I’m not going to go into the nitty gritty details but suffice to say, after substantial pressure from various avenues, government decided to put the industry under the spotlight. After gathering all the information from both sides of the equation via a ‘high level panel’, the government finally recommended the dissolution of the captive lion industry, including the cessation of cub breeding, public interactions, the trade in and hunting of lions. Those vehemently against the industry hailed it as a victory. This victory however, includes the recommendation that the 12,000 odd captive lions be euthanised. What!, I hear you say. Doesn’t every life matter? Surely this can’t happen?
We regularly get emails asking for us to rescue lions from all over the world. Our standard response is that we would love to help, but we cannot. Every year we see more and more lions being imported from abroad by organisations, ‘bringing them back to their homelands.’ Those very same organisations have united to make sure the proposed legislation gets promulgated ensuring the death of 12,000 lions. Am I the only one, or do you see the conundrum here? Will they continue to raise millions of pounds to rescue the uncared for, starving Simba from a zoo in Cairo and bring him to South Africa, but turn a blind eye to 12,000 nameless lions already living here that are in desperate need of rehoming should the legislation be adopted? Surely then, the recommendation should be to euthanise Simba too?
If we all agree that the industry should come to an end, then surely a staggered process of winding it down is a far better option? Surely this winding down should also mean a moratorium on bringing any more lions into the country, and an undertaking that when lions pass away at a facility they cannot be replaced?
I’m often criticised for my interactions with the lions in my care, as the world becomes more and more deliberate and everyone’s opinions take the form of black or white when it comes to animal interactions. Some say my lions have no conservation value. But then what conservation value do any captive sanctuary lions have? I would argue that at least my lions have contributed meaningfully by raising millions of pounds for wild lions, but I’m very happy to not replace them when they die.
I’ve spent months pondering over this elephant in the room, but I feel we really need to ventilate the far-reaching effects of shutting down an industry which has been allowed to flourish in one fell swoop.