Atop tourist attraction in South Africa is Moreson Ranch where visitors can pet and feed lion cubs, a once in a lifetime opportunity to come face-to-face with an illustrious animal from story books and Disney movies. What Moreson Ranch and the 170 other lion-breeding farms in South Africa conceal is how the cubs are forcefully taken from their mothers hours after birth to quicken the reproductive process and will most likely be sold to hunting facilities. “We sell them to other people who have the permit for lions -said Maryke Van Der Merwe, a manager at the Moreson Ranch- what they do with the lions is up to them.” The hunting facilities the cubs are sold to practice “canned hunting” which takes fully grown and captive-bred lions from their pens into large enclosed areas where individuals pay anywhere from $7,000 to $40,000 to track the animals and shoot them from a safe distance.
Little has been done by the South African government to counter the $95 million trophy hunting industry which also includes zebras, giraffes, rhinos and other exotic African wildlife. The government even effectively removed a ban on canned hunting in 2011 after lion breeders challenged the policy. Breeders argue that it is better to shoot a captive-bred lion than further endanger the wild populations, but this is disputed by conservationists. Their cloudier and less discussed argument is that banning trophy hunting would cause huge job losses, close down major places of employment and put the CEOs of these ranches on the streets. Separating any newborn life from its devout mother and raising it to be slaughtered is cruel in every respect; if the government will not intervene then awareness needs to be heightened about the cycle of cub-petting ranches and trophy hunting facilities.