Canned Hunting

By: Sabrina Berg

The lion must have thought, “As I look across the grassland, I see you standing there and I feel like I know you or have seen you before.  Hmmmm…  It seems to me that you used to feed me and take care of me when I was little and you were extremely gentle and caring so you cannot be that harmful. This means that I can get close and play with you without there being any danger to me.” Next thing you know the same human who has taken care of and nurtured them their whole lives is the one at the other end of the barrel. These poor lions and tigers are being betrayed by the ones they put all their trust in. When they have either been raised in a ranch facility or have been sold into another place that does captive hunting or canned hunting.

Canned hunting is a form of hunting where hunters will pay money to shoot captive animals on game ranches. For example, there was a video online of a lion being hunted that while held in a medium size cage enclosure. He was displaying stressful behavior, obvious from his repetitive movements of pacing back and forth. It became immediately apparent that the lion was trapped, making him an easy target for the hunter.  These animals, usually large cats, are typically taken away from their mother just hours after birth and are handled and bottle fed by humans.  Thus, the cubs become accustom to human interaction and they ignore their natural fears. Because of this, when it comes time to be “hunted” they no longer fear humans as they should, but instead, accept the potential hunters.  The young animals even begin to enjoy human company given that humans play, feed, and take care of them (2).

Canned hunting is unethical and not a fair fight for the lion because the shooters are actually picking out and paying for a specific domesticated lion that is friendly to humans.  Clearly this type of hunting is not for sport or sustenance, it is purely for the trophy. The hunter is not working at outwitting their prey and all he gains from the experience is a massive credit card payment and an animal carcass to show off to his buddies over a cheap bottle of scotch. The definition of hunting is the practice of pursuing any animal and trapping or killing it and canned hunting is not that.  The only similarity is the killing of the animal. Canned hunting could also pose a threat to the conservation of important top predator species such as lions, cheetahs and jaguars. If action is not taken against hunting practices like canned hunting, it may lead to the extinction of several endangered species.

A very important point I would like to bring to the table is how a lion’s behavior is influenced at an early age. Previously, I mentioned how cubs were taken away from their mothers in the first few weeks of life; this action could potentially contribute to the behavior of the animals because they are becoming accustomed to the lack of natural predators and don’t develop avoidance behaviors. Skills like this are important because they need them to survive in their native area.  Animals that are used for canned hunting are raised elsewhere, brought in, or purchased from individuals who are trafficking.  The animals can come from zoos, where they are unwanted or surplus, or possibly circuses who have no use for the animal (1).

Another issue that is misleading when it comes to canned hunting is the fact that game farms (ranches) mislead the public into thinking that the lions are being raised for conservation and reintroduction purposes. We see this a lot when vacationing in places like Mexico or South America. You see a photo op with a lion cub, or you pay to visit a farm to bottle feed baby cheetahs. Once you get to the farm, it is apparent that the cubs have no mother. The owners create a sob story about how the cubs were rejected or orphaned at an early stage (3).   They quote the visitor a fee which allows an individual to help bottle feed the cubs (3).  The owners make you believe that the money you are giving them will help the young cubs get a second chance to live free in the wild.  In reality, once the cubs get too big to be exploited for their “cute factor”, they are sold to hunting facilities. It is in these facilities that people pay to ‘hunt’ and kill large exotic carnivores.  So, in the future, if a farm or facility allows you be in contact with a big cat, you may want to question if it’s a legitimate facility.  Keeping lions captive in this way is not a means of conserving them, especially not the ones that are allowed to be handled by humans.  These lions are considered “human imprinted” and viewed as dangerous and will most likely be sold to a hunting facility (4).

Link to the video:

  1. Campaign against canned hunting. February 25,2015.
  2. Barkham, Patrick. Canned hunting is a fast-growing business in South America, where thousands of lions are being bred on farms to be shot by wealthy foreign trophy-hunters. June 2013. February 25,2015.
  3. Williams, Evan. Killing tamed wild animals in fenced areas for sport, petting cubs in Africa supports the canned hunting industry. November 26,2013. Website. February 25,2015.
  4. Tucker, Linda. Canned Hunting. Assessed March 23,2015.

11 thoughts on “Canned Hunting

  1. Amy D'Arcey

    What a nightmare for these animals, I wish people weren’t so thoughtless and cruel. I can totally picture American tourists taking selfies feeding a baby cheetah and ignoring that the people who own it are shady and don’t care about it’s eventual bad fate. Is canned hunting still legal in the US?

  2. mberne

    People always find a way to pursued people that what they are doing is “helping” these wild animals. This i such a horrible practice, I have never heard about ‘programs’ like this. People need to be better informed on the behavior of wild animals in order to realize that this is something that is doing more harm than good. I imagine of they knew what would happen to these babes when they grow up, they would rethink visiting one.

  3. Gabe

    This is really interesting, as the idea of “canned hunts” goes way back to the royal hunts in Europe. In fact a “pigeon shoot” was literally where they would throw a pigeon in the air and shoot at it. It is very unfortunate that Africans have adopted this model for their big game. Canned hunting to me is simply an extension of that greedy king mentality, and has no place in modern hunting.

  4. Lisa Angeloni

    I wasn’t aware of this issue or of the existing campaigns to ban canned hunting. I generally think of this as an animal welfare issue more than a conservation issue (at least for the hunted animals that were not and would never be part of a natural population), but it’s an interesting point that game ranches may be misleading people into thinking they’re supporting conservation efforts.

  5. ematth

    This topic is so interesting because it completely rivals the fun and exciting lure that exotic animal petting zoos have. This topic reminds me of when I was in Thailand — there were advertisements for tiger petting zoos all over the place (“Tiger Kingdom”) that promoted the conservation and protection of the tigers. I wonder if this organization was involved in canned hunting.

  6. amajor

    To be honest, I’m slightly caught in the middle. I mean, if I were to hunt a lion or a tiger, it would be a wild one that has become a problem animal and there’s other way to deal with it or that it is a man-eater. And it would definitely hurt me to see a lion or tiger that I had known as a cub become a mount for some rich guy’s room. But, a part of me wants to say that this is probably a ‘safer’ alternative for a rich guy to get a trophy without being killed in the process and I hear some people rationalize that it’s no different than farming an elk or a bison, wild animals that we have raised as livestock. But, while I could agree that it’s ‘safer’ for the shooter (but what’s the thrill in that?), this would be something I would have say to those who say that argue that it’s no different than raising livestock. In elk and bison, we use practically everything in the carcasses of the elk and bison to our use, like how we do for cattle (hides for rugs/blankets/leather clothes, meat for food, bones/antlers for fertilizer, etc.). On the lion and tigers for canned hunts, that is very different. The only things used off of their bodies are the skin, teeth, and claws for the taxidermy mounts and heads, where’s the rest of the body? No doubt, it is left rotting in a rubbish pile. Unless it’s a compromised carcass, we NEVER do that for livestock bodies. So, that argument is invalid and I think that it would be good to bring up that kind of argument for a topic such as this. All the same, this is a great article.

  7. reneev

    I think this is a great example of why you should never trust “zoos” or facilities where you can touch or play with the predatory animals. Any reputable zoo or aquarium keeps its guests far away from their animals, and any place that doesn’t do so should be a red flag. Sure, it’s cool to say you pet a lion cub and take pictures with them, but most people who do so probably aren’t aware of the fate those animals face. I think this would be a great opportunity to convince people to do research on a place like this before they visit it.

  8. ssteele1

    Well, I think this is a simply disgusting practice. While I am biased, big cats being my “thing”. I also find it hard to see any other side of this argument. The cats aren’t (or rarely) being used for their meat, the methods are completely unethical, and the disguise of conservation is appalling. I wasn’t aware of this issue and hope it’s not out of control in other countries.

  9. leorah

    I think this is a big animal welfare issue. There is definitely a big emotional appeal here, to stop canned hunting for unethical reasons, but I’m a little wary of the intense use of anthropomorphism and emotional language. In terms of conservation, I’m under the impression that these canned hunting facilities are different from the exotic hunting game parks or ranches in places like Texas…? In the past, I’ve been of the opinion that those facilities are useful, because of the idea of genetic arks – even if these animals are being hunted, having populations that breed and live in these places keeps the genetic material alive, which could have conservation benefits in the future.

  10. Savimay

    I had never heard of canned hunting before. It is really sad that these beautiful creatures are harvested just to be murdered with no benefit other than money for their captors. I think education awareness about this would be the a good way to shut these type of organizations down and also government interference would be ideal. Especially with the lion’s wild populations declining the government could make canned hunting illegal and end this animal abuse.

  11. Lacey Humphreys

    Growing up in San Diego we used to go down to Mexico all the time. In beach towns like Rosorito and Ensanada there were always photo opts where you could take pictures with and bottle feed cubs like white tigers, lions and cheetahs. I would always ask questions about where they lived and what happens when they get old and they would say they would be going to a zoo or be re-released back into the wild. It is a bit concerning about how they get these animals since most are protected, did you read anything about how they got them? Do they have permits that say they are rehabbing them? Its is just so sad what people would do in order to make a buck…

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