In March 2020 the world was enthralled by Tiger King – one of Netflix’s most-watched shows to date – in which now famous, eccentric tiger breeders Joe Exotic, Jeff Lowe, and Doc Antle were introduced. The controversial true crime documentary exposed its cast’s obsession with big cats and all the ways to profit off them. Ahead of the start of the show’s second season on 17 November, global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS shifts the spotlight from the notorious cast and their antics to the reality of tens of thousands of big cats still suffering as a result of a booming trade industry.
“Tiger King may offer viewers a´shock-watch' entertainment show, but sadly this show is more fact than fiction. A look behind the scenes reveals animal abuse and an international network of breeding, trade and exploitation of tigers, lions and other big cats. As the spotlight is once again shone on the ‘characters’ of the show, FOUR PAWS wants to highlight the real victims on and off-camera: the animals.
There are an estimated 1,600 captive tigers in Europe, an unknown number in the US (but accounted for in the reported 10,000 big cats), and 1,500 in South Africa, while only around 3,900 are left in the wild. Once the animals lose their commercial value, they are often killed and their body parts, skin and bones are sold for use in traditional medicine or jewellery. A live tiger captive-bred in Europe can reportedly be worth up to £4,000, while a dead tiger can go up to £19,000.
The setting for the Netflix show may be the US, but the situation is also out of control in Europe and most parts of the world. The private keeping of tigers as exotic pets and the exploitation of tigers in circuses is still legal in several countries, and the commercial trade of big cats is poorly regulated and monitored. Easy access to purchase a tiger and inadequate keeping requirements in countries where private keeping is still legal makes a lucrative business for breeders and traders.
Only a ban on the commercial trade of live big cats and their body parts can put an end to this cruelty. FOUR PAWS is working to protect all big cats by influencing legislation in key trade hot spots like Europe and South Africa and offering a permanent home for rescued big cats in our sanctuaries. We urge viewers of Tiger King to fully understand that for the animals trapped behind bars, it is a lifetime of misery and suffering.”
Sonul Badiani-Hamment FOUR PAWS UK Director
Signing the #BreakTheViciousCycle petition and making sure to never visit and pay money to attractions that offer live interactions is a contribution to the work of FOUR PAWS to improve the lives of all big cats around the world and helps spread the word on this important issue.