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The Honourable Ms Justice Mokgohloa has dismissed the Zanchieta application against Blood Lions, and instructed Zanchieta to pay the filmmakers’ legal costs, including the costs incurred by the employment of Senior Counsel.

Blood Lions Film Poster. © Blood Lions
Blood Lions film poster © Blood Lions

On 19 November 2015, Zanchieta Wild Cat Farm, otherwise known as ‘Zanchieta’, launched an application for urgent injunctive relief against the producer and executive producer of the documentary feature film, Blood Lions.

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.

Images of Zanchieta’s lions, as well as an interview with one of its representatives, were included in the documentary and appeared on various websites including Facebook and YouTube. In its founding papers, Zanchieta alleged that the images and footage were defamatory, insofar as it associated Zanchieta with canned lion hunting and the lion bone trade. It was 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 Friday, 27 November 2015 and Saturday, 28 November 2015.

Accordingly, Zanchieta sought to prevent all further screenings of the film and requested that an amended version of the documentary be redistributed excluding all images, footage and references to Zanchieta. Zanchieta also sought a correction to be included in the amended version recording that Zanchieta is not involved with canned lion hunting or the lion bone trade.

Blood Lion‘s legal team – Andrea Gabriel SC and Peter Whelan, and Alan Wright of Bowman Gilfillan – raised non-joinder and certain jurisdictional points. It was also argued on behalf of the producers that any reference to Zanchieta was not defamatory and that it had failed to make a case for urgent injunctive relief.

The application was heard in the High Court of South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal Division, Pietermaritzburg by the Honourable Ms Justice Mokgohloa on Friday, 27 November 2015. The urgent application for relief was not granted, and judgment was reserved until the following week with the screenings in the United Kingdom going ahead as planned.

This morning, Mokgohloa granted an order dismissing the application in its entirety together with costs, including the costs of senior counsel. Reasons are to follow. In handing down the order Mokgohloa commented that she had viewed the footage.

The Blood Lions team is extremely happy with this outcome.

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