Is it humane to make big cats perform?
Because of what happened with Montecore and Roy Horn of the famed magic act, Siegfried and Roy, we have been asked the same two questions by hundreds of people: “What was the tiger really thinking?” and “Is it humane for animals to be made to perform?” To the first question all I can say is I don’t know. (Who could pretend to know what any other creature is thinking?)
To the latter question, these are my thoughts:
By definition, inhumane is “lacking and reflecting lack of pity or compassion.” To force one’s will upon another for no other reason than to satisfy our own desire to be amused, or our own gain, is to lack pity or compassion.
We are the world’s largest accredited big-cat rescue facility, home to 100+ exotic cats, and 80 percent of them were from the entertainment industry and former pets. We do something called operant conditioning, in which the cat is enticed to do things that we need for the animal’s management, such as to come lie against the wire so that we can check its ears, or to open its mouth so we can check its teeth. It is a training method that most circus acts purport to use that has no form of punishment but gives a small food reward if the cat does the requested performance on command.
I would be the first one to say that these cats shouldn’t be in cages and in need of medical care, but that is another day’s debate. The learning of the tricks is not the heart of the issue. Most people are not aware that traveling acts are frequently governed only by USDA regulations stating that the cage need be large enough only for the animal to stand up and turn around and that the cat cannot be kept in something smaller than that for more than 60 days. But each time the cat is taken into the circus ring, the 60-day clock starts over again. Many of the cats who come to us have permanent scars on their noses, hips and shoulders from hitting the sides of their tiny enclosures every time they try to move.
The argument is often made that performing animals get fed regularly and get medical attention and a home for life (or until they won’t perform anymore), but that would define life in prison to us. Not too many of us would think ourselves fortunate to be born and bred into a life of confinement and a life of having to bend our wills to that of our oppressor. Cats are the top predator and the most willful of all animals. That is why we are so awed by them and why so many seek to prove themselves superior by being able to command an animal far larger and more powerful.
It is easy to point at profit-driven animal industries and say that they are the bad guys, but it is all a matter of supply and demand. When people become enlightened they will see that every choice we make has an impact on the world around us, and that impact will be good or bad based upon the choice we make.
Socrates said, “A life unexamined is not worth living.” When people truly examine their motives about why they want to see a magnificent animal in a cage or being made to perform, then their choices will become more compassionate. When people look beyond their own wants and desires and seek out the truth about the living conditions of these animals when they are not in front of the public, then they will have pity for the creatures.
People are getting smarter, and they are becoming more aware. I truly believe that 20 years from now people will look back on this controversial question of today and wonder how anyone could have thought that treating animals this way was humane.
None of these photos were taken at Big Cat Rescue.
The video below is very disturbing and not intented for young audiences. The clips show lions and tigers fighting and a number of other situations where captive cats are mauling and killing each other. The reason it is posted here is to demonstrate that it is man who is responsible in almost every scene for the injuries and deaths of these magnificent creatures. For the most part, lions and tigers do not live on the same continents, so even the scenes that look as if they were filmed in the wild are obviously staged by humans. Most of the scenes are obviously in zoos and circuses where great cats are made to interact in unnatural ways that causes them a tremendous amount of stress and injury. You can put an end to this sort of abuse by asking for better laws to protect the animals at www.CatLaws.com
You may have to click > twice to play video clip