1. A play to pay session or photo op with a cub
This is the cause of most of the abuse that big cats suffer. The law only allows contact with big cats between the ages of 8 and 12 weeks. To make the most money they can, the breeders will lie about the ages of the cubs to inspectors and will starve them and poison them to keep them small so they can use them longer. There is no good place that will let you pet a lion or tiger cub despite their false claims that they are providing education that results in conservation. It is just how some very bad people make money for themselves and it will mean a lifetime of deprivation and prison for the cats they breed for this purpose. These lions and tigers often end up living in squalor and starving as there are not enough accredited sanctuaries to rescue the hundreds of new cubs born each year for photo opportunities and playing sessions, once they grow too big to use. To see lion and tiger cubs being petted at malls and fairs and why it is so bad, see the video here.
2. An exotic cat as a pet
Giving live animals as gifts isn’t usually a good idea, but it is a particularly bad idea if the gift is a wild animal and even worse if he or she is an exotic cat or exotic cat hybrid. They all grow up to spray bucket loads of urine and usually end up being relegated to tiny back yard cages or worse. It doesn’t matter if they are male or female, neutered or not; they all grow up to spray because they are hard wired to protect their territory that way.
3. Tickets to the circus to see tigers
It is NOT true that circus cats perform because they love their trainers or that they are trained only using positive reinforcement. Big cats are solitary creatures who are designed to roam hundreds of square miles each day. Even lions, who live in prides, are family units and not random cats forced into close contact with each other. If you watch the cats in circus acts you will see them pinning their ears back, snarling and warily watching their trainer and each other. Their lives are full of abuse, fear and indignities for the purpose of amusing ignorant people. When they are not in the ring they are confined to tiny, barren circus wagons in the hulls of cargo barges, trains and semi trailers.
4. Trip to the zoo to see big cat babies
While zoos claim to be the last ark for endangered species, this isn’t true for big cats. There are no breeding programs in captivity that return big cats to the wild and there are a lot of reasons why that would never work. The biggest lie that zoos tell is that there is a need for such breeding at all. If there were safe habitats for lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars and other wild cats to live in, then they breed quite well and their numbers would rebound immediately. One of the most egregiously misleading things that zoos do is to exhibit white tigers because white tigers cannot survive in the wild and are only created by purposely inbreeding father to daughter, brother to sister, generation after generation after generation.
To quote from Dr. Ron Tilson, Conservation Director of the Minnesota Zoo and manager of the world renown Tiger Species Survival Plan, "The white tiger controversy among zoos is a small part ethics and a large part economics. The tiger Species Survival Plan has condemned breeding white tigers because of their mixed ancestry, most have been hybridized with other subspecies and are of unknown lineage, and because they serve no conservation purpose. Owners of white tigers say they are popular exhibit animals and increase zoo attendance and revenues as well. The same rationalization can be applied to the selective propagation of white lions, king cheetahs and other phenotypically aberrant animals."
5. A fur coat or fur trimmed gift
If it has fur on it, an animal paid for your gift with his or her life. Period. Just this month President Obama signed into law a bill that requires the sellers of fur to label the items as real fur because many of the garments currently labeled faux fur, or not labeled at all, do include real fur. This fur has been found to come from illegal sources, endangered species and even dogs and cats. The retailers often dye the fur to deceive the public because most people don’t want to wear dead animals. Unless you have an expert eye for the difference between real fur and faux fur it would be better to forego any purchase this year that even looks like it might be fur.
So there you have the top five worst Christmas gifts and hopefully you didn’t buy any of them and didn’t get any of them under your tree this year. If you are an animal lover or are looking for the purrrfect gift for the cat lover in your life, then perhaps you could sponsor a big cat who has been rescued from the exotic animal trade. http://www.bigcatrescue.biz/ is a great place to do that.
See this on Examiner.com where it ran on the front page of the Tampabay section on 12/26/2010