“Unfair Game” – An exposé of South Africa’s captive-bred lion industry

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Unfair Game” – An exposé of South Africa’s captive-bred lion industry

UK Link – “Unfair Game

USA Link – “Unfair Game

By Lord Ashcroft on Wildlife

In April 2019 Lord Ashcroft published the results of his year-long investigation into South Africa’s captive-bred lion industry. Over 11 pages of a single edition of the Mail on Sunday he showed why this sickening trade, which involves appalling cruelty to the ‘King of the Savannah’ from birth to death, has become a stain on the country.

Unfair Game, published June 2020, features the shocking results of a new inquiry Lord Ashcroft has carried out into South Africa’s lion business. In the book, he shows how tourists are unwittingly being used to support the abuse of lions; he details how lions are being tranquilised and then hunted in enclosed spaces; he urges the British government to ban imports of captive-bred lion trophies; and he demonstrates why Asia’s insatiable appetite for lion bones has become a multi-million dollar business linked to criminality and corruption which now underpins South Africa’s captive lion industry” – Biteback Publishing

The revelations in “Unfair Game” come from two separate undercover operations over two years – codenamed “Operation Simba” and “Operation Chastise” – include:

  • A warning from experts that lion farming and the lion bone trade are likely to lead another major public health incident, possibly even another coronavirus-style pandemic.
  • A gruesome video showing two hunting lodge owners callously shooting a lioness in a tree. The animal is then shot another nine times in seven minutes as she lies dying in agony on the ground.
  • Proof wild lion cubs are being caught in Botswana to increase the gene pool of South Africa’s captive-bred lion industry. This blows a hole in the claims of lion farmers that their business promotes conservation.
  • A senior South African police chief rejecting the dossier of evidence from Lord Ashcroft’s second investigation and threatening to arrest the leading undercover operative.
  • Evidence of a captive-bred lion being hunted and killed illegally using a pack of dogs; and evidence of a British hunter paying to take part in an illegal “green hunt” in which a lion was shot with tranquiliser darts.
  • Lions being kept in disgusting conditions at a farm in Free State Province before 54 were slaughtered in just two days.
  • Farmers crossing tigers and lions to create “ligers” – freaks of nature which grow at an accelerated rate to generate bigger profits.
  • The rescue of an adult male lion, “Simba” from certain death at the hands of trophy hunters. Lord Ashcroft has now housed him in a secure location where he will live happily for the rest of his days.


This book is an eye-opener, with almost surreal, detailed covert investigation of the dark, medieval practices inflicted on the emblem of Africa – demeaning the African lion, other big cat breeds and illegal cross-breeds.

The shocking and bloody abuse of the canned/captive breeding industry in South Africa seems like something from a long-past gruesome history, but this industrial scale abuse – a self-inflicted abomination – is happening in today’s ‘civilised’ South Africa, all in the name of greed and an insatiable, macabre Asian demand for ‘medicinal’ potions of no proven efficacy and status symbols.

In fact quite the opposite ‘medicinal’ results have been unleased, with potentially lethally harmful disease transmission in the potions manufactured from the slaughtered canned/captive big cats. This canned/captive corruption, deceit, exploitation and negative conservation impact shames South Africa and bloodies all those complicit in facilitating it at every level. This embarrassment to all of humanity must end – the world can no longer look away and pretend in the post-COVID 19 pandemic era, such sustained wildlife abuse is in any way acceptable and not a human health risk to all.


Further Reading

Barbarous trade in bones from captive lions for use in Chinese ‘medicines’, wines and jewellery could spark risk of new pandemic, warn experts,” Daily Mail, 14 June 2020

Britain needs a total ban on hunting trophies,” Lord Ashcroft, Daily Telegraph, 23 November 2019


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