Mr Lowe has opened a big cat safari exhibit in a flea market inside a building next to an airport in Beaufort, South Carolina, USA. I say he has opened it but perhaps he is in the process of doing so because he’d planned to open around the time of Black Friday this year.
Currently, regulations don’t prevent the exhibiting of tigers in cages in a flea market in Beaufort County at this location. There are, it appears, regulations preventing an outdoor exhibit at this location, but that of course is a different matter.
This is the Burton flea market. Mr Lowe intends to build a 6000 ft.² enclosure containing lions and tigers within this building.
There is a petition against Mr Lowe’s business. The petition was started by Stacy Johnston who lives in Beaufort. She makes a good argument. However, from my perspective, it doesn’t take a good argument for a sensible person to realise that to keep lions and tigers, including cubs in cages on concrete floors next to an airport, and inside a large noisy facility, is indecent and unethical from the standpoint of animal welfare. It simply perpetuates the concept that beautiful wild cats are creatures to be exploited, to be exhibited; that they are business assets, no more and no less.
It is not illegal to keep big cats in South Carolina. South Carolina is therefore one of those states where you will find people keeping lions and tigers in backyards as pets. My belief is that South Carolina’s state legislature needs to modernise its attitudes towards this unsavoury habit. It’s not good for conservation and it is not good for the cats. It is good for one thing only, which is to make money and to satisfy an unthinking self-indulengce.
What is laughable is that Mr Lowe says that he is involved in conservation; he confidently states that if he didn’t exhibit tiger cubs they’d be killed or they’d die through lack of proper care in someone’s backyard as a pet. I understand his point but he seems to be compounding the problem; he is piling bad upon bad.
Stacey Johnston states that Mr Lowe’s safari exhibit currently has two baby big cats: a tiger and the lion and makes the point that not only is the exhibit bad for the cats, it is bad for the community.
I also agree that point. It seems that the local authority has been slack to allow dangerous animals to be exhibited at a flea market. I presume that there are some regulations with which Mr Lowe has to comply, but if there are, there would appear to be few of them plus they lack rigour.
Another point that Stacey makes is that being next to an airfield, there is noise from jet aircraft which will disturb the captive cats. I wonder whether this might make them more anxious which in turn might make them more aggressive which in turn adds to the risk to the public. This point seems to have been overlooked by the authorities.
I think we can describe this free-market safari exhibit as a private zoo – yet another one. There are already far too many and I think the general consensus of the majority of thinking Americans is that it is time to curtail the habit of some Americans to keep exotic cats as pets and/or exploit them.
You may remember recent examples of tragedies regarding private zoos. Also, annually, a good number of people are killed at backyard zoos because of slack safety measures due to slack ordinances and a laissez-faire attitude from the legislators.