Did you know there are hundreds of places around the world where right now you can pay to pet, hold, bottle feed and even swim with a tiger or lion cub? You’re first reaction to this news might be, “I’d love to hold a baby tiger! Where do I sign up?”
This reaction is exactly what exploitative breeders and exhibitors of cubs are banking on… literally banking on. From South Africa to Thailand, Mexico to the United States, exploiters of big cat cubs have figured out that the naïve public will quickly buy into their scheme of charging people for the chance to hold an exotic animal.
All the exhibitors have to do is lie and claim that the cubs are “educational ambassadors” for wild tigers and lions, or that part of your donation to hold the cub goes to conserving big cats in the wild. These abusers are well versed in telling their lies, and since most people would love to think that their participation is actually helping big cats, people are easily duped. These lies and exploitation also happen with baby bears and primates, but I’ll stick to talking about big cat cubs as that’s my area of knowledge.
So why is petting or holding a cub so wrong?
Baby tigers and lions are absolutely adorable. And without knowing the facts, holding or feeding a tiger or lion cub can seem like a fabulous once-in-a-lifetime experience. But that 10 minutes you spend interacting with a cub can equal a lifetime of abuse for the cat.
“As a result, the vast majority of big cats live in conditions that any compassionate person would view as cruel and inhumane.” -The Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act
Unscrupulous exhibitors breed and house baby tigers and lions so they can be handled and photographed by paying customers. To facilitate this public handling, the cubs are pulled from the nurturing care of their protective mothers shortly after birth – an inhumane and unhealthy practice that can lead to life-long physical and psychological problems for the cubs and even death. These facilities almost always lie and say the mother rejected the cubs. It’s abuse for the cubs and there is no legitimate reason in the world for these people to be breeding cubs for a lifetime in a cage. It’s cruel and pointless.
So what happens to the once-cute cubs? After the cubs become too big and dangerous for public contact and can no longer be used as money-making photography or play props – which happens in just 3 months – they are often discarded. The cubs have become a very expensive liability for their owners.
Most end up being warehoused at shoddy roadside zoos, at pseudo-sanctuaries, or in the hands of unqualified people. They can even be supplied to places that offer canned hunts or euthanized.
So what is the solution?
How can caring animal lovers stop this horrid chain of events? The single most important action you can take is also extremely easy: Never pay to hold or touch a big cat cub. When the demand to pay to pet cubs stops, so will most of the breeding.
Big Cat Rescue is part of a national coalition in America working to enact Federal legislation banning the private ownership of big cats and cub petting in America. The Big Cats & Public Safety Protection Act is pending in Congress (HR 1998 / S 1381). If you would like more information about the bill, visit www.StopBigCatAbuse.com.
I hope now that you have the facts, you’ll not want to ever pet a big cat. And I hope you’ll even go one step further and become an advocate for these magnificent animals. We are their only voice.