First published in The Daily Telegraph on 15 June 2020.
My new book exposing the scandal of lion farming in South Africa is, unavoidably, full of grim and distressing details. Behind the veneer of the respectable tourist industry, thousands of big cats are beaten, drugged, starved, shot and skinned every year for nothing more than profit. The exploitation of these creatures from birth to death – and beyond – will appal readers. So will the lion trade’s links to international crime syndicates and the nonchalant attitude of South Africa’s authorities. With about 12,000 captive-bred lions in South Africa at any one time, against a wild lion population of only 3,000, this problem is growing.
While the world reels from the Covid-19 pandemic, however, one alarming consequence of this gruesome business arguably rises above the rest of the ghastliness. It relates to the zoonotic diseases carried by lions which also threaten humans.