As many as 12,000 captive-bred lions are slaughtered in South Africa every year. Their bones are used in traditional Asian medicines. This is shown from a series of disclosures by the British author Michael Ashcroft. The ties of South African breeders with international crime groups and the carelessness of the authorities are a growing problem, he points out.
In his latest book ‘Unfair Game: An exposé of South Africa’s captive-bred lion industry,’ Ashcroft exposes the lion industry. The animal suffering behind this trade is harrowing.
Newborn lions are taken from their mothers after just a few days. As young animals no longer receive breast milk, their immune system weakens considerably. They grow up in cages that are much too small and barely eat enough.
During their miserable life, the animals mainly have to entertain tourists. The visitors constantly cuddle the cubs that grow up on the ‘lion farms’ in South Africa. Tourists can also walk with the young animals. When the cubs are too big to walk with, they can barely leave their cage.
Once the males have a full bush of moons, they are taken to a ‘game farm’. There they are killed by trophy hunters from all over the world. Trophy hunters pay big money to kill the lions.
The animals, which are semi-tame and often severely weakened, are hunted and eventually shot in a small-scale area from which it is impossible for them to escape.
Then the bones of the slain lions are transported to Asia. Lion bones are particularly popular in China and Vietnam. The remains of the bones are processed into medicines in the belief that they cure diseases such as arthritis or, even more absurdly, serve as an aphrodisiac.
Products claimed to contain lion bones often cost hundreds of dollars. There is no scientific evidence that these big cat products offer any medical benefit. Not only are pills made from the bones, but also cake and wine.
A lion’s carcass is said to be worth around $ 5,900, the Ashcroft book reveals. Every year, about 12,000 lions are victims of these rogue practices.
Public health crisis
In his book, Ashcroft reveals even more amazing facts. Several scientists are convinced that a new health crisis is on the way.
The rampant consumption of lion bones can cause people to become seriously ill and even die, Professor Peter Caldwell warns. After all, the animals are raised in unsanitary conditions.
Botulism, an infectious disease that affects the nervous system, is common in bred lions due to poor hygiene and can be transmitted to humans.
Professor Paul van Helden of the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, an authority on TB in animals, also points to the seriousness of the matter. He confirms that lions can transmit TB to humans even after death.
According to the World Health Organization, 1.5 million people died of tuberculosis in 2018, a figure that can only increase if people continue to consume the so-called traditional lion-bone medicine.
“Are we heading towards a new major crisis with the lion industry at its core, with our eyes closed? I’m afraid so,” explained Ashcroft. “It could be a disease we already know, or a new terrifying disease, like Covid-19 being one.”