Minister Barbara Creecy. Photo: Supplied

The Environmental Minister Barbara Creecy has moved to veto an amendment to the existing Meat Safety Act, which would allow for the commercial sale of lion meat in South Africa.

The changes were initially proposed by the Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza, but the Cabinet now face a battle among themselves on this issue as the minister has unilaterally stopped the action.

In a conversation with Bulletin, Member of Parliament, Hannah Shameema Winkler, revealed that during a portfolio committee sitting of the Department of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), and the department of agriculture officials it was revealed that the reason why there had been an amendment to the meat and safety act was because of the lion farming industry.  

“Lion meat is a by-product of a captive lion hunt and lion bone export and it seems there was a push from that industry to be able to slaughter lion and sell the meat and perhaps export it,” stated Winkler.

Minister Didiza gazetted the proposed amendment to the Meat Safety Act 2000 (MSA) earlier this year which would have allowed for the commercial sale of lion meat.

In some parts of the US, Lion rib eye steaks fetch $299 per kilogramme. Photo: Supplied by DA.

The DA has now submitted a number of written questions on the proposed amendment to the MSA to both the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) and the Department of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) to seek clarity on the motivation behind the proposed inclusion of threatened and protected species (TOPS) to the act.

A DEFF portfolio committee meeting with DALRRD officials was also requested and convened to discuss the implications of the MSA amendment on TOPS species. During the course of the meeting, it was revealed that the inclusion of TOPS species in Schedule 1 of the MSA would in fact also apply to lions, despite the fact that that lions were not explicitly mentioned in the amendment to Schedule 1 of the act.

“This omission is conspicuous by its absence considering that other TOPS species of public concern and interest such as giraffe, rhino and hippo, to name a few, were explicitly listed under Schedule 1 for public comment. Upon questioning, it was clarified that the undefined catch-all phrase at the bottom of the MSA gazette which reads that ‘the act also applies to all other species of animals not mentioned including birds, fish and reptiles’ in fact includes lions that is, the amendment would allow for the legal slaughter and sale of lion meat for human and animal consumption,” stated Winkler.

Winkler told Bulletin that there are at present about 3000 wild lions left in the reserves and that DEFF is unable to tell them how many captive lions there are.

“The estimates are at 8000 range but research show that there could be about 12000 captive lions and this is part of the problem that the department and the provinces do not have the resources, oversight capacity, and the ability to enforce compliance. This is indicative of the fact that they do not know how many lions there are in South Africa, neither leopards nor cheetah,” stated Winkler.  

“We encourage Minister Didiza to heed Minister Creecy’s decision to not allow for the legal commercial sale of lion meat. As it is, the captive predator breeding industry is beleaguered by controversy and welfare concerns over captive lion hunts and the export of lion bones. South Africa’s wildlife belongs to all and we have a responsibility to exercise custodianship of our natural heritage for present and future generations,” concluded Winkler.