nzherald: It was the overpowering stench and the thick swarm of flies that told Reinet Meyer she had stumbled upon something truly horrific.

Meyer, a senior inspector at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, had been tipped off that lions were being left in tiny cages at the Wag-‘n-Bietjie farm, 32km outside Bloemfontein in South Africa’s Free State Province.

Knowing that her country’s controversial lion breeding industry supplies the appalling international trade in lion bones meant she was expecting the worse. But nothing could prepare her for the grotesque and macabre scene she found inside an anonymous-looking farm shed.

The building was being used as a lion slaughterhouse, and a supervisor and eight workers were stripping the skin and flesh from the fresh carcasses of a group of recently killed lions.

Dead lions, some skinned and others waiting to be skinned, littered the blood-stained floor. A pile of innards and skeletons lay elsewhere inside, while discarded internal body parts were piled high in overflowing black plastic bags on a trailer outside.

Photographs taken by investigators showed a squalid scene of gore. Many are too horrific to be shown.

“It was shocking,” Meyer said. “We couldn’t believe what was happening. You could smell the blood. The lions got shot in the camp and then were all brought into this one room. The flies were terrible.

“For me, a lion is a stately animal, a kingly animal. Here he is butchered for people just to make money, it’s absolutely disgusting.”

About 200 yards from the abattoir, two lions were housed in steel transport crates that were too small for them to stand up or turn around in. Meyer said they had been left in the crates without food or water for three days.

She initially thought that one of them was dead because it was not moving.

Source: Published by nzherald

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