High Court Rules in Favour of Lions and NSPCA

Stephen Wiggins Article 2 Comments

The NSPCA has won its case (launched in September 2018) against the Minister of Environmental affairs (and co Respondents). The Judgment (6 August 2019) from the Pretoria High Court concluded that the lion bone quotas set for 2017/18 were unlawful because animal welfare was not considered (by the Minister) to be a function in the Minister’s decision making – this has been proven a fallacy in contravention of the Constitution:

“1. It is declared that the First Respondent’s [Minister of Environmental affairs] decision to set the quota for the exportation of lion [bone] (of 800 lion skeletons) which was established by notice on 28 June 2017 is unlawful and constitutionally invalid.

2. It is declared that the First Respondent’s decision to set the quota for the exportation of lion bone (of 1500 lion skeletons) which was determined on 7 June 2018 and publicly announced on 16 July 2018 is unlawful and constitutionally invalid.”

However, as Chris Mercer points out, this does not mean the unlawful setting of quotas will not continue unabated and the captive lion industry will just expect more legal challenges to its non-compliance.

In the NSPCA’s words:

Judgment was handed down in the Pretoria High Court today in a case between the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA), and the Minister of Environmental Affairs and the South African Predator Breeders Association regarding the lion bone export quotas and the implications for the welfare of captive lion. Judgment was found in favour of the NSPCA.

Judge Kollapen found that the quotas set in 2017 and 2018 for the export of lion bone skeletons were unlawful and unconstitutional, and did not follow due process. It was further stated that the Minister and the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) disregarded the welfare of captive lion in setting the quota, and whilst welfare is not their mandate, the Minister and the DEA must take the welfare of captive lion, and other captive wildlife into consideration in decision making.

The NSPCA have recently opened a number of criminal cases against captive lion facilities that have neglected, and in some instances, completely disregarded the welfare of their lions. For these reasons, the NSPCA launched this application as the lion bone quota directly impacts the welfare of captive lions.

The NSPCA elatedly welcomes this judgment as it has broader implications for the welfare of wild animals – both wild populations and captive wild animals. The captive lion industry, cub petting, canned hunting, and the trade in lion bone is a highly contentious and controversial issue both globally and locally.

We are overjoyed that the importance of animal welfare, and the vital and legal role of the NSPCA in protecting captive and wild animals, has been recognised in this precedent setting judgement. One cannot simply use, abuse, and trade wildlife without considering their welfare and wellbeing” said Karen Trendler, manager of the NSPCA’s Wildlife Trade and Trafficking Portfolio.

In his opening statements, Judge Kollapen stated that this was an important judgment for both current and future generations in addressing the manner in which society interacts with wildlife and the environment.

It has been a tough, intensive and challenging case. The NSPCA would like to extend their sincere thanks to their dedicated legal team and expert witnesses for their input and support – an incredible team effort.


Further Reading

NSPCA Lays Cruelty Charges Against Game Farm – Hawks Involved In Investigation,” NSPCA, 28 November 2019

Lion Bone Trade Justice Delayed,” Chris Mercer, Campaign Against Canned Hunting, 6 August 2019

Ruling that lion skeleton export quotas are illegal is a victory for ethical conservation,” Ross Harvey, Daily Maverick, 7 August 2019

Blood Lions welcomes high court ruling on lion bone export quotas,” IOL, 7 August 2019

Court victory for NSPCA over welfare of captive lions, bone exports,” Don Pinnock, News24, 8 August 2019

‘Lions are on the menu now’: Inside the legal lion bone trade,” ABC News, 10 August 2019

Bringing an End to South Africa’s Captive Predator Industry: An Interview with the Blood Lions Team,” Animal People Forum, 12 August 2019

Evidence of Failed Animal Welfare

Emaciated cubs, freezer full of carcasses uncovered at North West lion farm,” IOL, 5 August 2019

Animal cruelty charges laid against lion farmer,” Conservation Action Trust, 4 May 2019

DEA Progress Report; Captive Lion Breeding and Rhino Demand Management,” IWB, 18 March 2019

  • DEA representatives visited 227 captive breeding facilities, but a member of the portfolio committee correctly stated that “it was shocking that 88 lion breeding facilities in various provinces had been found to be in non-compliance, and that there were facilities that did not have permits.”
  • As if to add to the shock, the facilities that did not have permits at all, had their permits reinstated (seemingly without penalty)…….with members of the portfolio committee seeking “to clarify how the expired permits were renewed if there was non-compliance, and whether issues of animal welfare were checked?

Photos emerge of malnourished lions on breeding farm,” Africa Geographic, 8 July 2016

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