Podcast Uploaded: Richard Peirce | Lions, Bones, and Bullets

The Lion – King of the Jungle, the Big Beast, Simba, star of the Lion King, one of the world’s best known and best loved animals – or perhaps more accurately a wild cat of the open plains whose population, according to a 2015 statement by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, has undergone a reduction of approximately 42% over the past 21 years, the unwitting star of 1997’s the Cook Report’s ‘Making a Killing‘ and the chilling and powerful 2015 documentary ‘Blood Lions‘, which uncovered the realities of the multi-million dollar predator breeding and canned lion hunting industries in South Africa.

From magnificent predators we have turned Lions into inbred animals farmed in miserable conditions across southern africa, animals rented out to be cuddled by so-called voluntourists then sold on to be shot in their enclosures by trophy hunters in canned hunts, and animals whose bones are boiled down to service the demands of traditional Chinese medicine now that Tigers have been exploited to the point of extinction.

I met conservationist, activist, author and film maker Richard Peirce at a wildlife event in Bristol where he was talking about ‘Blood Lions’ and his own excellent book ‘Cuddle Me, Kill Me‘, a scathing and in-depth investigation of South Africa’s large-scale captive lion breeding industry, from, as the book puts it, bottle to bullet. Research for ‘Cuddle Me, Kill Me‘, started in late 2016 and the book was published in mid-2018 – Rather than say, ‘I’ve done my bit’ though, Richard is now deep into the making of an investigative documentary, ‘Lions, Bones, and Bullets‘, and is planning visits to Asia, where many lion products end up

Richard Peirce really knows his stuff. He divides his time between Cape Town and Cornwall, fundraising, campaigning, and tirelessly – and bluntly – talking about the problems that Lions face. He is well placed to discuss the impact of canned hunting and the lion bone industry on what travel chiefs like to call ‘Brand South Africa’, the lies told by farm operators to overseas volunteers who come to Africa to look after ‘orphaned’ lion cubs, the huge sums of money being made by lion farmers, and the more then twenty years of effort to halt an industry which to jaundiced eyed might seem almost unstoppably buoyant.

Richard has some fascinating perspectives on lions, Africa, and activism, but I began by asking him – given that there seems to be an almost endless queue of wealthy gun owners looking to get their jollies by shooting a lion in a cage whilst at the same time East Asia is hoovering up wild animal parts at a rate never witnessed in the planet’s history – has anything actually changed for the better since Blood Lions?

Have a listen to Richard Peirce | Lions, Bones, and Bullets on Lush Player

Richard Peirce: Cuddle Me, Kill Me

I’m interviewing author and conservationist Richard Peirce tomorrow, We met at a TeamEarth event in Bristol a few weeks ago, where he hosted a showing of the unforgettable (and rather bleak) 2015 film ‘Blood Lions‘.

Richard, who divides his time between South Africa and Cornwall (here in the UK he is perhaps mostly known for his work conserving sharks with the Shark Trust), recently wrote a sort-of follow up book which absolutely blasts the canned lion industry and is well worth buying: Cuddle Me, Kill Me (which apart from anything else has one heck of title…).

Putting bullets into lions seems a very difficult industry to defeat. Exposes of the canned lion industry, with it’s related ‘petting tourism’ and ‘walking with lions’ offshoots, have been around since Roger Cook’s famous ‘Making a Killing’ report was shown on ITV back in 1997. Even the global release of ‘Blood Lions’ doesn’t seem to have slowed the industry down. There appears to be a long queue of empathy-deficient ‘hunters’ (or more properly ‘gun owners who like to kill animals’) willing to prove their manhood by shooting a lion in a cage. Cynical owners/operators have dug in and greenwash their sordid activities by burying opponents under claims of ‘conservation’ (technically, yes, there are more lions in South Africa now than in previous decades, but only in the sense that opening an intensive chicken factory in a town means there are now more chickens in that town than previously).

It’ll be interesting to find out from Richard what solutions might exist, and what he considers the next moves should be. And what about the intervention in April of Tory peer Michael Ashcroft, a man who appears to be ruthless in business on the one hand but against canned lion hunting on the other (that link, incidentally, leads to Ashcroft’s own website where he writes about himself in the third person – not something I’ve ever felt comfortable about but then again I’m not worth 1.3billion dollars, so maybe there’s something in it)?

Richard was gratifyingly blunt in Bristol, I’m hoping for much more of the same!