FEDERAL BILL GAINING MOMENTUM – 50 COSPONSORS NOW!
PLEASE MAKE THE “CALL OF THE WILD”
The Big Cat Public Safety Act would put an end to the private breeding and possession of big cats that leads to thousands of tigers, lions and other species living in miserable conditions. These animals in houses and back yards create danger for the public and for law enforcement and animal control officers. The bill has been endorsed by the National Association of Animal Control Officers and the Florida Association of Animal Control officers.
In February while attending the National Sheriffs’ Association conference in Washington, DC, Sheriff Lutz from Zanesville, Ohio joined our lobby team to visit legislator offices about the bill. Zanesville is the home of the tragic “Zanesville massacre” four years ago when Terry Thompson let over 50 dangerous animals out of their cages and then committed suicide. Officers had to shoot most of the animals. Here Sheriff Lutz poses with BCR’s and Susan Bass and Jennifer Leon at our booth at the conference.
The bill, numbered HR 3546, is steadily gaining momentum in the House of Representatives. This is largely due to the many phone calls and email from animal lovers like you all over the country. A “cosponsor” is a legislator who commits in advance to supporting the bill if it comes up for a vote. The bill was introduced on a bipartisan basis by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA). We are now up to 50 cosponsors! They are listed below.
YOU CAN HELP! Emails, and particularly phone calls, from constituents do matter! Please visit StopBigCatAbuse.com to learn how to contact your legislator. Phone calls are easy. All you need to do is say you live in the district and you would like to ask the Representative to support HR 3546, the Big Cat Public Safety Act. And if your Representative is already a cosponsor, it is very helpful to call or email and thank them so they know that constituents appreciate their support. If you cannot call during the day, you can call and leave a message at night or on the weekend.
After reports of an escaped big cat frightened Milwaukee residents over the summer, Wisconsin lawmakers proposed a pair of common-sense laws that would keep both people and animals safe. UnderAB333 and its identical companion bill, SB 241, Wisconsin residents would no longer be able to buy, sell, breed, trade, or possess dangerous exotic animals, including all big cat species. All public contact with exotic animals would be banned, effectively ending the cruel and exploitative “cub-petting” industry in Wisconsin. Like similar legislation in other states, the law would grandfather in existing owners and their animals, provided that the animals are registered with their municipality. It would also exempt AZA and municipal zoos, circuses, research facilities, and veterinarians.
It’s been noted that this legislation, while certainly a great step forward, is still fairly weak compared to the exotic animal laws of other states. Most reptiles wouldn’t be regulated, for example, and neither would monkeys. The law also doesn’t mandate stiff penalties for noncompliant owners — scofflaws would only have to pay a mere $1,000 fine per animal (or $2,000 if an animal injures someone or destroys property).
But the proposed legislation still isn’t soft enough for people who wish to own or profit off of exotic animals. Private zoos, breeders, and animal brokers, fearing that any restrictions would be “bad for business”, have been fighting the legislation by trying to convince lawmakers that there’s no such thing as a “big cat crisis” in Wisconsin, and no need for legislation. They claim that their facilities are important for wildlife conservation and education, and that allowing the public to handle big cats is a vital part of “animal care.”
Despite the fact that these claims have been repeatedly debunked by legitimate wildlife experts, the pressure from pro-ownership groups has been working. Last week, in order to “protect businesses”, Wisconsin Senator Van H. Wangaard and Representative Samantha Kirkman gutted their own legislation by introducingindustry-drafted amendments to both bills, which would exempt USDA license holders and ZAA “accredited” facilities from having to comply with the law.
But Wisconsin cannot rely on the USDA alone to ensure that animals are being cared for properly. There are only four USDA inspectors assigned to Wisconsin’s 193 active licensees, meaning that inspections of facilities are few and far between. The agency does little to check the background of license applicants, and is slow to enforce the law when severe violations take place. And since virtually all private zoos and “pay-to-play” businesses already have USDA licenses, these amendments would make the legislation completely useless –which is just what exhibitors want.
The good news is that, since these bills haven’t been signed into law yet, there’s still time for real animal advocates to speak up and ask that Wisconsin lawmakers overturn these harmful amendments in favor of proactive, common-sense legislation that will keep both people and animals safe.
AB333 is currently in Wisconsin’s Committee for Consumer Protection. Contact information for the bill’s writers and sponsors can be found by clicking on the names under the bill’s “history” section. Contact information for all committee members can be found on the committee’s website by clicking on a member’s name.
SB 241, which has already been submitted for a full Senate hearing by the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety as amended, is currently awaiting scheduling. Contact information for committee members can be found here, and Wisconsin state senators may be contacted here. Governor Scott Walker has the final say in state legislation, and may be contacted with this online form, or at email@example.com.
Did you know that big cats and cubs are exploited and even abused at tourist attractions here in the U.S. and in dozens of countries around the world?
What can you do to make sure you don’t unwittingly participate in tourist activities that exploit big cats and other wild animals?
Easy ways YOU and your family can be responsible tourists:
• Never pay to touch or have your photo taken with a tiger or lion cub
• Don’t attend circuses, fairs, or attractions that feature wild animal shows
• Don’t purchase items made from wild animals, such as furs and rugs
• Don’t partake in local “delicacies” made from wild animals, such as tiger bone wine
• Only visit sanctuaries that are accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (www.sanctuaryfederation.org).
Sign up here to be kept in the loop when your voice is needed to protect big cats and their cubs: Sign up for big cat alerts and as an added benefit you will be entered for a chance to win our Animal Lover’s Dream Vacation.
As an animal lover, if someone were to make you this offer, would you accept?
You can pet, play with and bottle feed this cub and we’ll take a picture of you so you can share it with your friends – BUT, it means one of the following will happen to this cub once he/she is too big for this anymore:
This cub will suffer the rest of his/her life in a cage without proper food or care.
This cub will be shipped off to a hunting ranch to be shot for a price.
This cub will be slaughtered for the exotic meat market.
This cub will be sold off at auction to the highest bidder, fate unknown.
This cub will be killed for parts and bones for the medicinal market.
We know you’d never say “yes” to any of these. You love animals. That’s why you want this experience. But,that’s exactly what you agree to when you say “yes” to this thrill-of-a-lifetime offer.
It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about tourist attractions in South Africa, Mexico, or the United States. Sadly, this is the fate for so many cubs bred for money-making ventures like these. An exhibitor in Oklahoma, that Big Cat Rescue sued, said he could make $27,000 each week offering animal interactions like this. It’s obvious, money is what drives the industry – and the breeding.
But someone is surely regulating this, right?
In the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) feels there should be no contact with cubs under the age of eight weeks since that’s when they receive their first disease-preventing injections. They also feel there should be no contact with cubs over 12 weeks old since they can be dangerous even at that young age. But these are just guidelines, not regulations. If breeders/exhibitors were to follow these guidelines, it means a cub used for public contact would have a “shelf life” of only four weeks! What does this encourage? Rampant breeding and not following these guidelines. Where do they all go when they’re too old and can no longer be used for public contact? Refer to the list above.
Don’t inspectors make sure everything’s ok for these cubs?
In 2011 in the United States, there were only 105 USDA inspectors to monitor almost 8,000 facilities, ranging from slaughterhouses, pet stores, pet breeders and dealers, farm, laboratories and other animal-related businesses. That’s nearly one inspector for every 80 facilities! When traveling exhibitors often move these cubs all over the country to fairs, festivals, and malls, relying on inspectors to ensure quality of care for them is unrealistic. And even when cubs are being exhibited when they’re too young or too old, violators aren’t cited unless an inspector is there to personally see serious harm to the cub – screaming and squirming isn’t enough.
Doesn’t touching a tiger or lion help promote conservation since we’re losing them in the wild?
As more and more of these cub petting attractions spring up everywhere, guess what? Tigers and lions in the wild are endangered and becoming nearly extinct. In fact, touching a cub does nothing to conserve their cousins in the wild.
Tragically, it may be doing the opposite. If you can visit a facility to pet a tiger cub, then why protect them half a world away where you may never see them? Studies have shown that public interaction with captive wild animals has done very little to cause the public to donate to conservation in the wild. And there’s been no successful release of a captive-born tiger or lion to date. When a cub needs to be with its mother for at least two years to learn survival skills, this simply isn’t something humans can duplicate. So, the answer is “no,” touching a lion or tiger cub in no way helps save them in the wild.
What can we do?
Ask your member of Congress to champion the Big Cat Public Safety Act! This would put an end to the private possession and backyard breeding of big cats. Get the factsheet.
Contact the USDAby emailing them at: firstname.lastname@example.org . Let them know you want to see an end to physical contact with big cats, to prohibit public handling of young or immature big cats, and to stop the separation of cubs from their mothers before the species-typical age of weaning.
Never, ever give in to the temptation of public contact with a wild cat. It’s dangerous for you and sentences these big cats to life in a cage – or far worse.
Educate friends, family, and media about the reality of this cruel practice. So few know this is an insidious form of animal abuse, but now you do. Share it through social media channels too.
The next time you see a cub in your town or at some of the tourist attractions you visit while on vacation, we hope you’ll remember the truth and you’ll help raise awareness. When the demand ends, so will those who profit by supplying these experiences.
Together, let’s be their voice and assure no more cubs suffer an awful fate. (Article by Julie Hanan for One Green Planet)
Why Petting Cubs Leads to Abuse
Here our radio ad to educate parents about swimming with cubs:
Hear the highlights from this page:
The Truth About Tiger Cub Petting Displays in Malls
By Howard Baskin, JD, MBA, Advisory Board Chairman of Big Cat Rescue, Tampa, FL
Breeders who charge the public to pet and take photos with young tiger cubs tell venues and customers some or all of the following lies:
1) That the exhibitors are “rescuers” and operate “sanctuaries”
2) That the cubs have a good life while being used to make money:
a) they enjoy being carted around the country in a semi and repeatedly awakened and handled by dozens of people all day
b) that blowing in the cubs face “calms” them down
c) that dangling them by holding under their front arms and bouncing them up and down “resets” them
Cubs at the mall always = cub abuse
d) that close up photos with flash does not harm the cubs
3) that it is safe for the cubs and for humans, and legal, to allow contact with cubs from when they are only a few weeks old to when they are six months or more old.
4) that the exhibitor must keep constantly breeding and using the cubs to make money because that is the only way he can support the adult animals he keeps.
5) that the exhibitor is doing this to promote conservation in the wild.
6) that the exhibitor is teaching people not to have exotic animals as pets
And the biggest lie of all:
7) that the cubs will have good homes after they get too big to be used to make money from petting
THE FACTS ARE
1) Breeders/Exhibitors are not sanctuaries.
Most sanctuaries are not accredited
True rescuers and sanctuaries do not breed. Breeding more tigers simply adds to the number of big cats that end up living in deplorable conditions or being destroyed to supply the illegal trade in tiger parts. The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) is the most highly respected body that defines what a true sanctuary is and sets standards of animal care and practices that sanctuaries must meet in order to be accredited. Facilities that breed or subject the animals to the stress of being carted around to exhibit definition are not sanctuaries. For more about the difference between real and “pseudo” sanctuaries, visit the GFAS website at http://www.sanctuaryfederation.org/gfas/for-public/truth-about-sanctuaries/
In addition to not being a sanctuary because they breed and do offsite exhibits, these people who claim to love animals so much typically operate facilities where the animal care, while it may comply with USDA’s minimal standards, is far below the standards set by GFAS as humane, and in many cases is deplorable.
2) Life on the road means being torn from mother, denied natural behaviors, and mistreated.
The cubs used for petting exhibits are torn from their mothers shortly after birth, causing emotional pain to both the cubs and the mothers. Imagine what that mother tiger experiences after enduring the long pregnancy and finally giving birth, filled with the instincts to nurture her cubs, and then having them snatched away. The breeders take them away and have people handle them so the cubs will “imprint” on the people instead of doing what is natural and imprinting on their mothers.
And what is life like during the months they are used to make money for their owners? Cubs this age want roam, explore, test their young muscles to develop coordination, and sleep for extended periods of time without interruption. Watch what happens during these exhibits. The cubs are repeatedly awakened so a customer can pet them instead of being allowed the sleep their young bodies need. When they try to wander they are repeatedly yanked back. And where are they when not on exhibit? They spend endless hours in small cages in trucks, hardly a suitable environment for inquisitive, active young cubs.
While used for petting by the public or held for photos with the public, the cubs squirm and try to get away. What do the exhibitors do to control them?
One technique used by exhibitors to get the cubs to stop squirming is blowing in the cub’s face. Contrary to what the exhibitors say, this does not “calm” the cub. The cub does not like this any more than you would. This blowing in the face is a way mother tigers discipline their cubs. It is a punishment. The cub becomes inactive temporarily not because the cub is calm. The cub becomes inactive hoping that not moving will cause the exhibitor to stop blowing in its face.
The other technique is to dangle the cub from under their front armpits and toss them up and down in the air. One notorious exhibitor tells customers this is to “reset” the cubs. Another tells customers that this is how the mother tiger holds the cubs, which is equally ridiculous. Being held under the arms and tossed up in the air is just another unnatural and unpleasant experience that causes the cub stress, making them temporarily stop doing the behavior that is natural, i.e. trying to squirm away from being held.
What happens when the cubs are sick? The video at www.TigerCubAbuse.com shows cubs with severe diarrhea kept on display. The keepers simply follow them around wiping diarrhea off the floor, and then use the same towel to wipe the cubs’ irritated rear ends as the poor cubs scream in pain.
How would you feel if you were their mother and knew this was the life they had been torn from you to endure?
3) Cubs are routinely used to make money both below and above the legal age.
Most big cats endure squalid conditions
While cub displays are inherently cruel for the reasons given in this fact sheet, USDA regulations do allow them, but only for a few weeks. USDA has ruled that there should be no public contact with the cubs until they are at least 8 weeks old because that is when they receive their first injections to prevent disease. USDA has ruled that there should be no public contact after the cubs are 12 weeks old because they are large enough to be dangerous. So, the only time it is “legal” to have the public pet cubs is when they are between the ages of 8 weeks and 12 weeks.
However, because enforcement resources are limited, exhibitors flagrantly violate these rules, putting the cubs and the public at risk. Videos at www.TigerCubAbuse.com and www.TigerCubAbuse2.com show exhibitors freely admitting on camera that the cubs are under 8 weeks old. The video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tE8CXQLKfq0 shows people playing with 5 and 7 month old cubs at G.W. Exotic Animal Park, home base for Joe Schreibvogel and Beth Corley, who operate the most notorious mall exhibit road show. Twenty-three of this exhibitor’s cubs died in 2010.
4) Abusing cubs is not a necessary or justifiable way to make money to support adult cats.
The exhibitors often claim they have no choice, that they must breed and exploit cubs to make money to support their other animals. Joe Schreibvogel posts on Facebook “I don’t think none of us like to be forced to be in the entertainment of animals (sic).” But the truth is that true sanctuaries all over the country support their animals without abusing some in order to make money to feed the others. They do this by providing a great home for the animals that far exceeds the minimal legal requirements and then learning how to attract donors who appreciate the excellent home they are providing. Lacking the ability to do this is not an excuse for abusing tiger cubs to make money. People who are not capable of operating a real sanctuary simply should not own animals. No true animal lover could justify abusing some animals to provide financial support for others.
5) Paying to pet tigers does not support conservation in the wild.
Captive breeding causes more poaching
No money the public spends to pet or take photos with tiger cubs ever goes to support conservation in the wild. In fact, the opposite is true. There is a huge and growing market for tiger parts like the skins pictured here, and tiger “derivatives”, i.e. products made out of tiger parts like tiger bone wine. A dead tiger is worth up to $50,000 for its parts. Breeding what US Fish and Wildlife Service calls “generic” tigers like the ones used in the mall exhibits is not tracked. So there is no way to know how many U.S. born tigers are killed to have their parts illegally sold into this trade. And, the more that trade expands, the more incentive the poachers have to kill tigers in the wild.
6) Petting cubs sends the wrong message about exotic animals as pets.
Exhibitors often claim that they are teaching people that exotic animals should not be pets. But what example do they set as they handle the animals and let others do so? Saying that exotic animals do not make good pets while charging people to pet them is a little bit like someone telling people not to use heroin while having a needle sticking in their arm. “Do as I say, not as I do” is not a message that works. The websites of these exhibitors frequently show photos or videos of the exhibitor handling, hugging or kissing adult tigers. This encourages other people to want to be “special” like the exhibitor.
The way to encourage people not to want exotic animals as pets is to set an example by never having physical contact with them. This is what true sanctuaries, people who truly care about the animals, do. Meantime, exhibitors like Joe Schreibvogel actively support of private ownership of exotic animals as pets. He has conducted a fundraiser for an organization devoted to, “fighting for the rights of everyday people….to keep, house and maintain exotic animals”. Schreibvogel’s 2010 fund raising event was attended by people who brought their pet primates. He created an “association” whose website has a page offering baby white tigers for sale. Many of the followers on the “Joe Exotic” Facebook page are obviously exotic pet owners. The G.W. Exotic website actively rails against the steady trend of laws banning private ownership to protect the public and stop abuse of the animals.
Private ownership of exotic animals results in widespread abuse as cute young animals mature and end up being kept in deplorable conditions. While some exhibitors claim they are teaching people not to get exotic animals as pets, others actively promote the trade. But all of them, by their behavior, encourage people to own exotic animals in order to be one of the “special” people who can have contact with these animals.
7) The cubs are destined for a horrible existence after they are too big to use to make money.
Big cats are often kept in concrete & steel jail cells
This is the single biggest reason not to permit cub displays. If asked, exhibitors tell venues and patrons that the cubs will end up in some wonderful home, either at their facilities or elsewhere. Current USDA rules allow an owner to keep a tiger in a concrete floored, chain link jail cell not much bigger than a parking space, often with nothing to do but walk in circles or stare out. Enforcement of the rules that do exist is limited because it would be economically unfeasible to have enough inspectors to adequately monitor the thousands of tigers owned by people licensed by USDA to exhibit animals. These are animals built to live in the wild, roaming and hunting. They are very intelligent and they experience a broad range of emotions.
We treat criminals in prison far better than the way most owners end up treating captive tigers, whose only crime was being bred by a breeder/exhibitor to make money. Attached are photos that are not exceptions. They are typical of the conditions in which the cubs that are bred by private owners will end up.
8) There is potential for disease and liability.
A May 2011 statement from the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) recommends that the public be prohibited from direct contact with tigers due to the risk of illness to humans stating” …ringworm in 23 persons and multiple animal species was traced to a Microsporum canis infection in a hand-reared zoo tiger cub.” Zoonotic diseases — those that jump to humans — account for three quarters of all emerging infectious threats, the Center for Disease Control says. Five of the six diseases the agency regards as top threats to national security are zoonotic. The Journal of Internal Medicine this month estimated that 50 million people worldwide have been infected with zoonotic diseases since 2000 and as many as 78,000 have died.
Cub petting has been an evil practice for far too long
PUBLIC IMAGE ISSUE FOR VENUES
Changes in values in our society do not happen suddenly. It took decades of educating and changing people’s minds before women finally got the right to vote, something we take for granted today. A similar progression occurred in the area of civil rights. The same shift is taking place at an accelerating rate with respect to our society’s view of private ownership of big cats.
Compelling evidence of this is found in the trend in state laws. Just since 2005, nine more states have banned private ownership of big cats, generally recognizing that such ownership is dangerous to people and results in the animals being kept in deplorable conditions.
The public doesn’t see how most big cats are kept
Many people innocently support the abuse by patronizing the cub displays. The cubs are adorable, and the exhibitors are skilled at telling their lies. But, increasingly numbers of people are aware of the issues presented in this fact sheet, or on their own simply see the displays and find them repellant. As the number of people of people who find such displays objectionable grows, venues like malls increasingly make a negative impression on patrons in a way they cannot necessarily measure. Venues like Petsmart stores, Alton Square Mall in Alton, IL, and Metro North Mall in Kansas City, MO have led by banning exotic animal displays.
As more and more people become aware of what happens “behind the scenes” and actively object to the cub displays, more and more venues will ban the displays. In the meantime, venues who allow the displays make a negative impression on many customers who care about animals while many tiny cubs are condemned to lifelong misery.
As a venue, you can make a wonderful contribution to society by helping stop this abuse, while at the same time sending a very positive branding image to the many customers who love animals and do not want to see them being abused when they come to shop.
We hope the information in this fact sheet is useful. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Susan Bass, Director of Public Relations at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida at 813-431-2720 or Susan.Bass@BigCatRescue.org. Venues that these exhibitors lie to in making their pitch to be allowed to display have a critical choice. They can be part of the problem, encouraging this abuse by permitting it, or part of the solution. We hope you will send a positive public relations image to your many animal loving patrons and help save these innocent tigers from abuse by banning such exhibits in your venue.
See more video of the horrible conditions where big cats are kept
This video talks to Big Cat Experts Around the Globe About How Petting Cubs Kills Tigers in the Wild
See a cub man handled for paying guests to get their picture at the mall
Note that the handler stands on the cub to subdue him
How Can You Tell if a Tiger Cub is Too Young or Too Old?
It’s almost impossible for regulatory agents to determine if a cub being used on display is truly within the legal age range of 8 weeks to 12 weeks. This photo composite shows tiger cubs at different ages and in relation to people to give you an idea of what is likely to be a legal size petting / photo op cub and what is not. Note that we do not believe cubs should be used for petting or photo props at any age. Cubs belong with their mothers and in the wild.
Click on the image to see it larger.
Tiger Cubs Ages 2 Weeks to 12 Weeks
The American Zoological Association is the accrediting body for zoos, like the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries is the accrediting body for sanctuaries. Only 10 % of the facilities in the U.S. that are housing wild animals are accredited. GFAS does not condone unescorted public visitation or contact with the captive wild animals and the AZA also states the following (emphasis added): http://www.aza.org/Education/detail.aspx?id=2451
V. Conservation Education Message
As noted in the AZA Accreditation Standards, if animal demonstrations are part of an institution’s programs, an educational and conservation message must be an integral component. The Program Animal Policy should address the specific messages related to the use of program animals, as well as the need to be cautious about hidden or conflicting messages (e.g., “petting” an animal while stating verbally that it makes a poor pet). This section may include or reference the AZA Conservation Messages. Although education value and messages should be part of the general collection planning process, this aspect is so critical to the use of program animals that it deserves additional attention. In addition, it is highly recommended to encourage the use of biofacts in addition to or in place of the live animals. Whenever possible, evaluation of the effectiveness of presenting program animals should be built into education programs. http://www.aza.org/animal-contact-policy/
At a 2002 meeting of the Tiger Species Survival Plan members it was decided that, “A second concern is the relationship between the Tiger SSP and the private sector, where many tigers (mostly of unknown origin) are kept. During the 2002 Tiger SSP master plan meeting in Portland there was a discussion of the appropriateness of handling tigers in public places by AZA zoos. There was complete consensus of all members in attendance that such actions place the viewing public at risk of injury or death, that there is no education message of value being delivered, that such actions promote private ownership and a false sense of safe handling of exotic big cats, and that the animal itself loses its dignity as an ambassador from the wild. As a result, the committee resolved such actions were inappropriate for AZA-accredited zoos, and that the AZA accreditation committee should make compliance of this restriction part of its accreditation process. This opinion statement was conveyed to the executive committee of the Felid TAG for comments and action.”
Mammals: Small Carnivores
In general, due to the potential for bites, small carnivores should be used in contact areas only with extreme caution. Due to the risk of bites, small felids are generally not used in direct contact. If they are, care must be taken that such animals are negative for infection with Toxoplasma gondii. All carnivores should be tested for and be free of zoonotic species of roundworms such asBaylascaris sp. Small carnivores (e.g., raccoons and skunks) obtained from the wild may present a greater risk of rabies and their use should be avoided in contact areas.
Click the image to get the 8 x 10 poster image to post at your school, civic center, on your car, or anywhere else you can reach people who want to save tigers.
Blood Lions ran on MSNBC last night in our area at 10pm, which is after my bedtime, so I taped and watched it this morning. I cried throughout, for the suffering of these lions, but by the end I was weeping. I couldn’t even speak without crying uncontrollably. Howie had taken Jamie and Justin to the airport at 5:30 am for their trip to be honored at the Snow Leopard Trust’s celebration event, so he came in to the last 10 minutes of the film. He held me, not knowing what to say, and I was crying so hard that I had a hard time letting him know why I was so emotional.
Of course I was crying over the brutal way big cats are bred constantly, only to have their cubs ripped away at a few days of age, to be passed around as playthings to ignorant patrons, and then warehoused in abysmal conditions until it is their turn to be trotted out in front of an evil excuse for a human, to be used as a living target. That would make anyone with a soul cry.
The weeping however was the kind of emotional release that you see in a nation that comes to the end of a long and bloody war. It is the combination of grieving for those who’s lives were lost, for those who’s lives will be forever impaired and the relief that the suffering is winding down. I wept with pride for all of our staunch supporters who have spoken up for the many city, county, state and federal bills that have passed to protect wild cats in the past 20 years.
When Howie first came to help the sanctuary in 2003 he began working on ways for Big Cat Rescue to become financially self sustaining so that I, and later he, could work on the issues that will end the abuse. This was the first year the sanctuary broke even, which meant I could divert some of the time I spent growing our real estate business to support the cats, into ending the abuse at its root.
In 2003 the root cause of so much abuse appeared to be breeding cubs to be used in canned hunts. I’d seen such a situation in Texas 6 or 7 years prior, where a legal hunting ranch for discarded zoo hoof stock, also had rows of cages of big cats. The cages were tiny jail cells where the cats paced and frothed at the mouth. I asked the owner why he had them and he gave me a sinister smile and said, “They are my pets.” Back in the 90’s I’d never heard the term “canned hunt” and was only just learning that people all over the country kept big cats in back yard cages. I didn’t like what was being done to the zoo hoof stock, but had my own worries in making sure we had eliminated the use of wild cats on fur farms in the United States.
Feeling pretty sure that no bobcats or lynx were being bred on U.S. fur farms any more by 2003, I directed my attention to ending the use of exotic cats in the canned hunting industry. Over the years I’d had people tell me similar stories to mine; where they or their husbands had been to a legal game farm, but had seen big cats in tiny cages too. Some even were reported to have tags in their ears for easy identification by the proprietors and the “hunters” who would pick the cat they wanted to shoot in a fenced area or a cage. Not knowing quite where to start, business people tend to do what they know. In our case, Howie and I turned to the Chamber of Commerce.
They directed us to the National Chamber, who directed us to state agencies and state legislators, who directed us to congressional leaders. Not only did NO ONE want to talk about this, but worse they insisted it wasn’t their problem, but rather was that of the people higher up the food chain. We’ve spent 12 years going up and down that chain, and bringing in everyone we could think of who might have influence. It’s been a grueling and frustrating experience and has been made nearly unbearable due to the apathy of most people who could do something about it, if they cared. They have time to fret and fuss over each other’s party issues, but can’t spend 10 minutes to hear about something they could fix that would end so much misery and help protect our natural resources.
A turning point came when Cecil the lion was killed by a dentist from the U.S. on a hunting safari in South Africa. When people learned that this easy going lion, who everyone knew by name, had been baited out of a protected area to be shot on private land, THEY CARED.
Within weeks, a documentary called Blood Lions, aired. (It had been in the works since 1998)
When I saw it today I was sure that anyone, with any sense of justice, who sees it will care. I can see the light at the end of the dark and dreary tunnel. I believe people will be outraged that our political representatives have allowed this to continue to this day, not only in foreign countries, but on our own soil. The most pertinent question the film makers kept asking is, “Where are all of these cubs going?”
Here in the U.S., most notably in Florida and Texas, canned hunting ranches abound. There is no excuse for that sort of cruelty, but the mere presence of big cats on those properties should be clear evidence that illegal hunting is happening there too. The more easily exposed abuse is that of cubs being bred for pay to play schemes. There is no legitimate place for those cubs to go as soon as they are 12 weeks old, and have teeth and jaw strength capable of biting to the bone. The people who use them for photo ops, swimming with the tigers and pay to play booths, always insist that the older cubs go to wonderful sanctuaries in the end, but there are only a handful of wonderful sanctuaries, and they don’t accept cast offs where the owners continue to breed and discard, so WHERE ARE ALL THOSE CUBS GOING?
In Blood Lions they discovered that all of the places in Africa, that say they send their cubs back to the wild, or to sanctuaries or non kill parks, were lying. Is it any stretch of the imagination to think that people who are heartless enough to breed lions, tigers and ligers, only to pimp them out, would discard them to any place that would take them; regardless of how horrific that end use might be? The breeders and dealers are the only ones proclaiming, even more loudly than our government, that where these big cats end up, isn’t their problem. I think our politicians and our federal and state agencies are about to find out that people DO care and they will be expected to turn their backs on the donations and kickbacks offered by those who kill and exploit wild animals for fun and profit.
Perhaps, one of the biggest forms of relief came from the exposure of the fact that NONE of the places that allow a person to have contact with an exotic cat, or their cubs, are part of the solution and rather that they are ALL part of the problem. So many young men and women have been duped into supporting these canned hunts, by bottle feeding baby lions, tigers and ligers or by keeping them accustomed to people, so that they are later easy targets. No one who really loves animals would ever be a part of these schemes. I believe Blood Lions will drastically reduce the income generated by the public paying to have such experiences and will eliminate the free labor. Would I be asking too much to hope that all of those people, who are now educated by Blood Lions, will become outspoken advocates to end the entire canned hunting industry?
We can end it in our country. We can’t be taken seriously by other countries until we clean up our own mess. We can start by ending the private possession of wild cats. There is a bill before Congress right now that will do that. Ask your member of Congress to champion the Big Cat Public Safety Act (the bill is HR 3546 if you want to sound cool) We make it easy at BigCatAct.com
Here is a great way to spread the word, in a fun way, about how abusive cub handling is. Check out TigerSelfieApp.com
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500 USA
20th September 2015
Re: Why tigers belong on the U.S.-China agenda
Dear President Obama,
We, the undersigned, write to respectfully ask you to raise the issue of tiger trade with President Xi Jinping during his visit to the United States in September 2015.
We congratulate you on your leadership in the global fight against the poaching and trafficking crisis that is sweeping across Africa, threatening the survival of an estimated 420,000 elephants and 25,000 rhinos. Given that there are fewer than 3,200 wild tigers remaining across Asia, we appeal to you to ensure that they too urgently receive the highest levels of political and financial investment to end the
demand that is making them worth more dead than alive.
Tigers Killed for their bones, teeth, claws, penis and fur
One of the most critical threats to the survival of wild tigers is trade in their meat, skin and bones to satisfy demand driven by wealth, rather than health − for high-status food, drink, home décor and even investment assets. This demand is fuelled by a marked increase in tiger farms in China, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, where tigers are intensively bred for trade in their parts and products. China alone claims to house more than 5,000 tigers on farms.
China is the main consumer market for tiger parts and products, and China’s State Forestry Administration has grown demand by supporting the expansion of tiger farms, allowing legal trade in skins from farmed tigers and approving farm wineries that make tiger-bone wine. Those actions have stimulated consumer interest in tiger products from all sources, undermining law enforcement, incentivizing poaching, and facilitating trafficking by organized criminal networks. Tiger-farm investors continue to push hard for full legalization of trade in tiger bones – the very trade China banned in 1993 because it threatened the survival of wild tigers. If trade were legalized, it would unleash a devastating demand that could quickly wipe out the last wild tigers, as the bones of wild tigers are far more valuable than those from captive tigers.
In order to ensure that tiger conservation remains a priority for the international community and to end tiger farming and tiger trade, we appeal to you to raise these issues with President Xi when he is your guest in Washington.
We also request the United States to take the following steps to compel China to take vital action:
1. Destroy all stockpiles of tiger parts and products and ensure deceased captive-bred tigers are incinerated so their parts cannot enter the black market;
2. Review the current certification of China under the Pelly Amendment to the Fisherman’s Act and urge China to phase out tiger farms, as per Decision 14.69 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES);
3. Encourage introduction and adoption of the Big Cats and Public Safety Act, so that the keeping and breeding of the more than 5,000 captive tigers in the United States can be phased down to include only the small number needed by legitimate zoos and conservation breeding programs, to set an example of best practice;
4. Ask China and Laos to address the trafficking and sale of tiger parts and products, ivory, rhino horn and other endangered species in and through Laos by Chinese and Laotian nationals; and
5. Encourage adoption of legislation that increases the capacity of the United States to assist in the international effort to combat illegal wildlife trade, ensuring that tigers are emphasized, along with elephants, rhinos and other species.
Zero poaching of tigers can only be achieved when there is zero demand. Therefore, we ask you to continue your leadership in tackling illegal wildlife trade by seeking an end to tiger farming in Asia and the keeping of thousands of unregistered captive tigers in the United States.
We thank you for your time and consideration.
Carole Baskin, Big Cat Rescue
Adam Roberts, Born Free USA and Born Free Foundation
Debi Goenka, Conservation Action Trust
Kedar Gore, The Corbett Foundation
Sally Case, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Debbie Banks, Environmental Investigation Agency
Iris Ho, Humane Society International / The Humane Society of the United States
Sean Carnell, National Tigers For Tigers Coalition
Kishore Rithe, Satpuda Foundation
Simon Clinton, Save Wild Tigers
Harshwardhan Dhanwatey, Tiger Research and Conservation Trust
Vicky Flynn, TigerTime
Belinda Wright, Wildlife Protection Society of India
Biswajit Mohanty, Wildlife Society of Orissa
For Return Correspondence
By Email: email@example.com cc JudithMills@eia-international.org
By Post: Judith Mills c/o Environmental Investigation Agency, PO Box 53343, Washington, DC 20009 USA
By Telephone: Judith Mills, (202) 674 4588
Twitter handles that might be useful:
White House Press Secretary
Sally Jewell, Secretary of the @Interior
Secretary of @StateDept
Director, White House Office of Environmental Quality (CEQ)
Assistant to the President for Science and Technology
News on the talks between President Obama and China’s Xi
An international group of 13 wildlife experts, in a letter released Tuesday, is asking Obama to mention another topic — the threatened extinction of the 3,200 tigers that remain in the wild in Asia.
As the story of Cecil the Lion continues to defy the desires of those wishing his story would just disappear; and continues to provide the motivations for those that desire his story to ride the wave of change, this story also seems to have evolved into the modern day biblical version of David vs. Goliath.
Goliath, of course, represents the hunting industry, their army of lobbyists and endless supply of financial might; including those that spend $50,000 for the right to kill a lion, much like you might spend $5.00 to purchase a box of cereal. David, on the other hand, represents the concerned animal rights supporters that are incensed, enraged and angered that such a senseless activity even exists in the first place.
Despite this anger and demand for “Justice for Cecil”, most people probably assumed that David had no chance to beat Goliath and ultimately, the world would continue to experience the inevitable decline and eventual mass extinction of the world’s animal population.
Yet, something odd seems to have occurred with Cecil; and there is a reverberation that has been created in social media that appears to have self-propelled the activism and demand for change. And people are actually starting to believe that Cecil’s death could truly be the tragic event that unites and unifies the world in a singular cause. And is it possible that Cecil’s story could finally and mercifully put an exclamation point on the tiresome argument that somehow hunting is a form of conservation; which undoubtedly was based upon the premise of “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” (Adolph Hitler)
Cub petting has been an evil practice for far too long
I recently read a quote from Edmund Burke, an 18th century philosopher who stated that “No one made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” And this connected deeply with me. Cecil could have become the story that incensed and angered many individuals, but those individuals becoming that “greater mistake” in Burke’s quote. Yet, this is not what has happened. Many appear to be taking the attitude that if they do “a little” and others do “a little”, all that “little” becomes magnified and multiplied to the point that it builds into something that actually changes the world.
SO, WHY HAS “CECIL” GAINED A FOOTHOLD AND GATHERED MOMENTUM, WHERE OTHER NON-CECIL’S HAVE FAILED?
It is a good question, and some have suggested it is as simple as the fact the he had a human name. And perhaps they are correct to some extent; and certainly, this has probably helped the story’s staying power. But perhaps it is better explained as a perfect storm of several factors: a human name, combined with the ongoing battle of one-percenters versus the rest of the world that has been reverberating the past several years. It is the haves versus the have-nots, the ethical versus the ethically bankrupt, the good versus evil, all encapsulated in a social media movement that did not exist five years ago.
If social media existed 40 years ago, we would not even be talking about Cecil today; as this movement would have begun long before the population had plummeted to an estimated 20,000 lions. However, because social media does exist today and has a greater influence over the world than it ever did, we are talking about Cecil and we are talking about population losses of the lion, and the tiger, and the cheetah, and the leopard, and the elephant, and the rhino and the wolf, and the polar bear, and just about every other non-human animal species.
Historic and Present distribution of the lion population.
This said, if there remains any doubt as to the truth of Edmund Burke, and if there are still any Davids out there that don’t believe Goliath can be beaten, the world is listening. Companies are listening, governmental officials are listening and they are responding and reacting.
Many articles and social media posts, blogs and websites continue to beat the drum of anger and rage – and I am not condemning those articles – because those are the exact articles that are driving this change. And there needs to be a constant reminder of the evil that exists in our society, and it is only in bringing this into the bright spotlight do we enact change. However, I believe that occasionally, we need to focus on positive results stemming from these efforts; as this provides a reminder to those pursuing change that they are making a difference. And perhaps more importantly, it reminds those on the sideline of inaction that just a little effort drives the winds of change.
SO, HOW ARE WE MAKING A DIFFERENCE?
Zimbabwe Hunting Ban
Almost immediately, the outrage that began on July 26th, the day the story appeared on social media, national and international news, the government of Zimbabwe moved to ban trophy hunting of the “Big 5” (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffalo). The parks and wildlife authority Zimparks also suspended hunting with bows and arrows, with permission from the authority’s head, and also banned the hunting of ‘collared iconic animals’.
And while the Zimbabwean government did ultimately lift the hunting moratorium ten days later, this was ten days that an innocent animal did not die as a result of this outdated sport. Additionally, the ban remains in place on farmland where Cecil died, as well as several other farms were officials allege animals were killed illegally; and the restrictions on bow hunting and the hunting of collared animals are still in effect.
Of course, the Zimbabwe government does receive significant annual revenues from the hunting industry, which should not be confused with revenues that trickle down to the local communities and local conservation, which has been estimated to be at less than 3%. That said, no one truly expected that Zimbabwe would turn off that revenue spigot without the development and expansion of alternative revenue such as the further expansion of ecotourism. This will take some time, but this should be perceived as a positive development and it is likely that Zimbabwe will be carefully studying neighboring countries like Botswana and Zambia that have successfully navigated and migrated away from hunting as a revenue source.
On August 3rd, Delta Airlines and United Airlines announced they would no longer transport buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion or rhino trophies on any flights. American Airlines followed suit later that day and Delta also announced that it was going to “review acceptance policies of other hunting trophies” in consultation with government agencies and organizations “supporting legal shipments”. In addition, other airlines joining this ban after Cecil’s death include Air Canada, Air France, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Air Emirates, Etihad Airways, Lufthansa, KLM, Iberia Airlines, IAG Cargo, Singapore Airlines, Qantas Airlines, Qutar Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
According to Humane Society International (HSI), 42 airlines now prohibit the shipment of trophies from the African Big Five and other wildlife, including all the major airlines listed above. The one airline absent from this list is South African Airways, an airline that oddly enough, announced a worldwide embargo on trophy shipments prior to Cecil’s death; but less than three months later, relented and reversed its position, after pressure from Safari Club International (SFI) and the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA).
Australia bans hunting ‘trophies’ from lions entering or leaving the country
The Australian government announced it has banned the import and export of hunting ‘trophies’, in an attempt to help curb the organized hunting of Africa’s wildlife. Greg Hunt, the environment minister, said he had signed an order to prevent the import of the gruesome hunting trophies, effective immediately. Hunt, said the practice of canned hunting was “cruel” and “barbaric.”
“It is about raising the most majestic of creatures for a singular purpose and that is to kill them, to shoot them for pleasure and for profit, it is done in inhumane conditions. It is involving things such as raising and then drugging and in many cases, baiting. It is simply not acceptable in our day, in our time, on our watch.”
United Nations General Assembly Historic Anti-Poaching Resolution
The United Nations adopted a historic resolution committing all countries to ramp up their collective efforts to end the global poaching crisis and tackle the vast illegal wildlife trade. All 193 UN member states agreed to “enhance regional and international cooperation along the entire illegal wildlife trade chain, including measures to stop the poaching, trafficking and buying. Along with strengthening judicial processes and law enforcement, the resolution encourages countries to actively involve local communities in the fight against the illicit trade by enhancing their rights and capacity to manage and benefit from wildlife resources.”
According to Elisabeth McLellan, Head of the Wildlife Crime Initiative, WWF International “Nepal has already proved that this comprehensive approach works, having achieved three years of zero poaching of rhinos since 2011 thanks to a combination of high-level political will, dedicated rangers, and genuine community participation – now it is up to other countries to follow Nepal’s lead and the measures outlined in this historic resolution.”
California Fish & Game Commission Implement Statewide Ban on Bobcat Trapping
The commission recently approved a statewide ban on bobcat trapping despite lawmakers’ protests. California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Jordan Traverso said the commission faced a difficult decision, but was ultimately swayed by the “sheer number of comments from tens of thousands of Californians who were in favor of the ban.”
Wild CRU and Pathera announce Summit for Wild Lion Conservation
In honor of Cecil the Lion, CRU and Panthera have announced the organization of a landmark summit for lion conservation at the Recanati-Kaplan Centre in Oxford in 2016 “ to grasp this new momentum in lion conservation, and inviting the foremost conservation experts from organizations throughout the lion conservation community to join us in a concerted effort to save the lion”.
Mexico Airlifts exotic animals to Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado
The Mexican government has banned the use of exotic animals in any circus performances, as many of these animals have lived in deplorable, inhumane and abusive conditions. The result of this legal action is of course, positive. But, it is also negative in the sense that many of these circuses have now abandoned these animals. Fortunately, they are finding a new home to live out the remainder of their lives. A total of 8 lions,2 lynxes, a puma, and coyote have been relocated to this accredited Wild Animal Sanctuary, a 720 acre preserve that is home to over 350 animals rescued from illegal or abusive situation, with an additional 9 more exotic animals scheduled to be airlifted in the near future.
Peru and Columbia Lion Rescue
In addition to the Mexican airlift above, a total of 33 lions – many living in the similar deplorable conditions, and most subject to years of abuse, are being relocated from Peru and Columbia to the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in Limpopo, South Africa and will live out their remaining years in this 12,000 acre preserve.
Federal Ruling that all Dogs & Cats sold in Phoenix pet stores must come from shelters or non-profits
A federal judge recently ruled that any dog or cat sold by an Arizona pet store must either come from an animal shelter or non-profit organization and is one of 60 cities through the United States that now requires this.
Exotic animals seized from a Toledo, Ohio roadside sanctuary
Six tigers, a bear, leopard, cougar and liger were seized from a Toledo, Ohio owner after the owner ignored warnings that he needed a permit. These animals have now been safely relocated to animal sanctuaries in three other states.
“EVERYTHING YOU DO MATTERS”
These are just some examples of how the combined efforts of many individuals are making a difference in the protection of animals and animal rights. And there are of course, many other efforts and initiatives ongoing around the world that address and focus on policy that balances human needs with that of the environment, and this can only lead to positive improvement in our world.
In his latest book, The Butterfly Effect, How Your Life Matters, Andy Andrews discusses how in 1963, Edward Lorenz made a presentation to the New York Academy of Sciences and proposed a theory he purported as The Butterfly Effect. He stated that a butterfly could flap its wings and set air molecules in motion that, in turn, would move other air molecules, which would move other air molecules, and eventually influencing weather patterns on the other side of the planet. He was laughed out of the room. But in the mid 1990’s, physics professors from several universities tested this theory and proved that the butterfly theory actually worked.
The Butterfly Effect works and more importantly, as Andy Andrews has so eloquently and pointedly said “Every single thing you do matters. You have been created as one of a kind. You have been created in order to make a difference. You have within you the power to change the world.”
The point is that everyone on this planet makes a difference, and everything you do (and don’t do) makes a difference; and this statement has both positive and negative implications. Someone taking steps toward a certain goal, no matter how small those steps are, is making a positive impact toward that goal. Failure to take steps can have the same impact in the opposite direction. Inertia begets inertia, and the momentum created soon builds to the point that mountains can be moved and worlds can be changed.
I truly believe that Cecil is the vehicle that is becoming that Wave of Change of the 21st Century. Not just driving the change for the rights of endangered and threatened species, and not only for the rights of other animals around the world. But, I believe he can be a wake-up call warning us that we cannot continue down our current path. Loss of the apex predator in our delicate ecosystem will cause a cascading effect causing irreversible damage and harm to the world. But because of one lion, perhaps there is still time to make a difference.
As Edwin Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” And as Einstein stated “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”
HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED
The opportunities are boundless and limitless, but below are several great organizations, with direct links to their “get involved” page:
Let’s ride this Wave of Change and make a difference.
Glenn Williams is an avid amateur wildlife and nature photographer, and has a love for animals, particularly the big cats. He is extremely passionate as to the plight and threat to our wildlife, and devotes much of his time to conservation and awareness of threatened and endangered species.
When he is not at home, he can be found traveling with his artist wife throughout North America, seeking new adventures and photo opportunities and inspiration for his next article.