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How We, the Ethical Public, Can Make History for Lions

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Blog Post by Linda Tucker

In 2015, more than 42 international commercial airlines made history by refusing to carry body parts of dead lions as cargo.

This landmark response to the international public outcry followed mass-media exposure of atrocities associated with lions. Commercial trophy hunters (notably the toothy American dentist, Walter Palmer) were luring majestic lion kings out of the safety of their wild reserves in Africa, to slaughter them for trophy heads on walls. But even worse than the unlawful killing of CECIL the Lion, however, were the incidents of kings and queens stolen from the wild, caged, then bred-for-the-bullet: first their baby cubs were manhandled by tourists, then later starved to death for the lion bone trade.

It that unified action against animal rights abuses, the airlines succeeded in cutting the supply-demand chain. Simple.

It’s gratifying that public pressure can bring about ethical transformation in commercial enterprise.

As members of a consumer society, we should take heart in remembering that. When we direct our money ethically, we transform an unjust system, even as consumers.

Importantly, IATA, International Air Transport Association, has an excellent track record of assisting authorities monitor and intercept illegal trade in endangered animals and animal parts through ports and airports.

A year later, in March 2016, the organisation which represents as much as 83% of global air traffic was among the signatories to the Buckingham Palace Declaration supporting the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce initiative of The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

However, it shouldn’t surprise us that directly following the ethical airlines’ landmark decision, a counter-lobby of greed and exploitation stuck once more.

In a truly abominable display of corruption and mismanagement of our earth’s threatened and endangered species, C.I.T.E.S (Convention for the International TRADE of Endangered Species) went on to legalise cross-border trade in the despicable lion bone cuddle-to-kill industry. One can only imagine the scale of backhanders trading money alongside endangered species to bring about this atrocity. The ruling took place in October 2016, when the C.I.T.E.S Convention was held in Johannesburg, just one year after the international airlines made their historic stand for the protection of lions.

In that single policy decision, illegal and legal abuse of endangered species became one-and-the-same, and notorious mafia bosses and gangsters with blood-on-their-hands in cross-border trade were officially laundered by international law.

What’s the point of policing wildlife trafficking, you’ll rightly ask, when the worst abuses are legal?

Sadly, C.I.T.E.S is likely to reinstate their ruling against lions as the international trade organisation prepares to meet again in Sri Lanka (23 May), unless we, the outraged public, object.

Here’s what we can do:

1.     Write to IATA and demand a list of airlines which honour their position taken before the corrupt C.I.T.E.S ruling:

·      Jon Godson (Environmental Department for IATA): environment@iata.org

IATA will recognise that an ethical public supports ethical airlines, and boycotts unethical airlines – with the immediate consequence that airlines will line up again to honour public opinion, and public funding support.

Note: only six months ago, under pressure from the ethical public, Singapore Airports, one of the main offenders in carrying lion bones, rhino horn and other animal parts to China, Korea and Laos changed its policy, and now refuses association with animal parts and the Blood Lions industry.

Lion Airlines benefits from the name of the King of Animals for marketing purposes, but does it protect the species?

Join us in demanding a list of ethical airlines from IATA. 

2.     Write to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Duke and Duchess of Sussex, asking that they express their support for ethical airlines that refuse to carry lion bones and body parts as cargo.

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