The High Court of South Africa has dismissed the appeal filed by Zanchieta Wild Cat Farm against the judgment of Honourable Ms Justice Mokgohloa concerning Zanchieta’s inclusion in the award-winning Blood Lions documentary; and instructed Zanchieta to pay Blood Lions’ legal costs.
Blood Lions’ documentary feature film – which blows the lid off claims made by the predator breeding and canned hunting industries in South Africa – includes images of Zanchieta’s lions, as well as an interview with one of its representatives. The images and footage were also featured on various website pages, including Facebook and YouTube.
On 19 November 2015, Zanchieta launched an application for urgent injunctive relief against the producers of Blood Lions, alleging that the images and footage were defamatory of it insofar as it associated Zanchieta with canned lion hunting and the lion bone trade. Zanchieta further alleged that as a result of this association, volunteer agencies now refused to refer volunteers to Zanchieta, this being its primary source of income. The urgency of the application was based on screenings of the documentary which were to be held in the United Kingdom on 28 and 28 November 2015.
Zanchieta sought to prevent further screenings of the film and requested an amended version of the documentary with a correction that Zanchieta is not involved with canned lion hunting or the lion bone trade.
In a media statement, Blood Lions explained: “Zanchieta purports to be a wildlife rehabilitation centre and sanctuary. However, Zanchieta failed to disclose in its papers that according to its own brochure provided to volunteers it also acts as a nursery for cubs that are brought to the farm by neighbouring breeders to be hand-raised before they are allegedly relocated into reserves.”
Blood Lions’ legal team argued, amongst other things, that any reference to Zanchieta was not defamatory and that it had failed to make a case for urgent injunctive relief.
The application was first heard in the High Court’s KwaZulu-Natal Division, Pietermaritzburg by Mokgohloa on 27 November 2015. The urgent application for relief was not granted and judgment was reserved until the following week when Mokgohloa granted an order dismissing the application, and commented that she had viewed the footage. Reasons were delivered on 22 August 2016, and the following month Zanchieta filed an application for leave to appeal. Mokgohloa granted the application in April 2017.
The Appeal was first set down for hearing on 30 July 2018, but Zanchieta erred in its preparation of the record and it was postponed. It was finally heard on 4 September 2020.
The full bench of the High Court in the KZN Division has now dismissed Zanchieta’s appeal and instructed Zanchieta to pay Blood Lions’ legal costs, including the costs incurred by the employment of Senior Counsel.
The Blood Lions team says it is extremely happy with this outcome and thanked its legal team – Advocate Andrea Gabriel SC, and Peter Whelan and Alan Wright of Bowman Gilfillan – for “their incredible support once again”.