Born Free releases must-watch viral video about the real ‘circle of life’ for South Africa’s captive lions

lion cub being petted by tourists
Tracy Keeling

The Born Free Foundation has released a stunning viral video on the “real circle of life” for South Africa’s captive lions. It’s a must-watch, particularly for those unsuspecting tourists at risk of being duped into financially supporting the industry.

Big business

Through an emotional animation entitled “The Bitter Bond”, Born Free details the life of lions born into the South African industry:

Start your day with The Canary News Digest

Fresh and fearless; get excellent independent journalism from The Canary, delivered straight to your inbox every morning.




Lion populations are in a perilous situation. It’s thought there are only around 15,000 wild lions left in the world.

As The Canary has previously reported, South Africa has a large captive lion industry. According to official estimates, there are almost 200 lion farms in the country that breed the iconic cats. These farms make big money from the lions at each stage of their tragic lives.

Lionesses have to give birth perpetually, like most farm animals, to new litters of ‘products’. People snatch their cubs away after only a few hours to make money off them in the ‘lion petting’ industry. Once they’re bigger, these lions are fed into ‘walking with lions’ experiences.

Once the lions are adults, trophy hunters pick out their picture from a line-up (with price tags) to shoot – a very popular ‘sport’ with British hunters. When that happens people drug them, release them into an enclosure and, from behind the safety of an electric fence, the trophy hunter ends their life with bullets. This is known as ‘canned hunting’.

Finally, farms sell their corpses – particularly their bones – for use in pseudo-medicinal products in Asian markets. This is also the fate for female ‘breeding’ lions once they’re no longer useful.

As Born Free puts it [1.42] in the video:

Most lions in South Africa aren’t born free. They’re raised in captivity. Cuddled for cash. Then sold to hunters.

End the great betrayal.

Under pressure

At the time of writing, the charity’s video had 1.3m views on Twitter. It accompanied “The Bitter Bond” with a petition calling on the South African government to end canned hunting. The petition had attracted over 47,000 signatures at the time of writing.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s high court dealt a serious blow to its trade in lion body parts in August. The court ruled that the quotas the country’s authorities set in 2017 and 2018 were both “unlawful” and “constitutionally invalid”. The ruling came after the country’s National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) challenged these quotas in court. Most significantly, it argued that the authorities didn’t take into account the welfare of lions in making that quota, despite that being relevant.

High court judge Jody Kollapen agreed with the NSPCA. He said it was “inconceivable” that the authorities ignored welfare considerations when setting the quotas.

End the great betrayal

The NSPCA has documented farms keeping lions in absolutely appalling conditions. In fact, the whole ‘circle of life’ for captive lions in South Africa is appalling. Tourists should refuse to play any part in it. Reducing demand for the cub petting and lion walking experiences is one sure way to help bring this ‘great betrayal’ to an end.

Featured image via Born Free Foundation/YouTube

Since you're here ...

We know you don't need a lecture. You wouldn't be here if you didn't care.
Now, more than ever, we need your help to challenge the rightwing press and hold power to account. Please help us survive and thrive.

The Canary Support