Lions and tigers and … bone wine?

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Lions and tigers and ? bone wine?

Daily Record Assistant Business Editor
March 27, 2008 6:54 PM

Silver Spring-based Discovery Communications LLC was ordered Thursday to turn over footage from one of its Animal Planet shows about the use of tiger bones in winemaking to help bolster the defense of an animal rights group being sued in China.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare asked the U.S. District Court for Maryland, in Greenbelt, on Tuesday to compel Discovery Communications to turn over footage from an episode of its Wildlife Crime Scene show. A federal judge signed off on the subpoena and gave the company until April 25 to turn over the footage and describe where and how it was obtained.

The footage will be used in a civil lawsuit filed against the animal rights group on Oct. 11, 2007. The Guilin Xiongsen Bear & Tiger Mountain Villa Entertainment Center filed the lawsuit against the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in the Beijing High People’s Court. The company claims the animal rights group impugned its reputation through a web article claiming a wine it makes uses tiger skeletons as the primary raw material.

The show in question is a six-part series called Crime Scene Wild, hosted by Steven Gastler, which features undercover investigating along with DNA and forensic science to expose illegal animal trading. The episode being subpoenaed is the final episode that includes a look at the Bear & Tiger Mountain Villa and the making of bone fortified wine. The Crime Scene Wild episode has not aired, and is not slated to air, in the U.S. It has however, been aired in the Animal Planet’s Asian and Australian markets.

Guilen Xiongsen runs a tiger farm, villa, restaurant and winemaking operation at Bear & Tiger Mountain. According to a June 22, 2007, report in the Sydney [Australia] Morning Herald, there were “1,300 captive bred-tigers including 43 frozen carcasses of animals that have died of natural causes” at the site.

The company has vigorously denied an article on IFAW’s Web site that claimed that at any given time the winemaker had “400 tiger skeletons immersed in the entire wine cellar.” And, that “you can see an intact tiger skeleton by randomly looking into a wine tank.”

“The Xiongsen Brand Medicated Wine manufactured and sold by it is produced with animal bones such as aged African lion bones in the Bear & Tiger Mountain Villa upon approval of the [Chinese] State Forestry Administration and Forestry Bureau of the Guangzi Zhuang Autonomous Region,” the complaint in Beijing court reads.

Guilen Xiongsen also disputes the group’s account that tiger meat was served in the villa’s restaurant under the name “king’s meat.” The use of rhinoceros horn and tiger bones has been prohibited by Chinese law since 1993.

“In a word, the plaintiff has never engaged in any tiger bone trade, or prepared tiger meat into various dishes, or produced and sold the so-called ‘tiger-bone medicated wine,'” the company said in the lawsuit. “The main ingredients of the ‘animal bone medicated wine’ produced by [Guilen Xiongsen] are rice wine, papayas and African lion bones, and do not include any ‘tiger bone’ ingredients at all.”

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