Carole Baskin has been physically threatened for 20 years ever since she started her campaign against private owners of captive big cats and their abuse. In case you don’t know, Carole Baskin is the lady who rescues big cats from abusive private zoos and other such places. She was featured on the Netflix documentary but in a misleading way because their narrative was to present her as a person in conflict with Joe Exotic and nothing else. She said that she watched the series from end to end waiting for some really useful information about her work but she never saw it. All Netflix wanted to do was to present the idea that this was a feud between Baskin and Exotic which profoundly disappointed her.
After the series was aired her phone started to ring and it rang and rang, she said, every two minutes for three months. People were screaming obscenities at her. They wanted to kill her. They wanted to kill the cats that she had rescued. They wanted to burn the place down. It seems that some of these people have a misconception about her work, in part at least, due to the Netflix series. She asked one why they wanted to kill the cats and the answer was “Because they don’t belong in cages”. But Baskin is about rescuing cats from abusive situations. She is doing the best she can under the circumstances. She is doing good work and should not be criticised. But it appears that the Netflix program has muddied the waters and balled together Baskin and Exotic as people in the same business, on opposite sides of the coin. This is entirely incorrect.
However, the abuse that Baskin has suffered since the Netflix series is nothing new to her because she confessed that she has hired bodyguards for the past 20 years. It appears to have started since she worked on new legislation to limit and better regulate the keeping of captive big cats in America. At present, the legislation is proceeding well through the the federal American legislature. She is in conflict with a segment of society in America who like to keep big cats as pets.
I see a great similarity between these people and the people who like to shoot big cats and other large species in Africa or anywhere they can. These are trophy hunters and sport hunters. There is quite a narrow divide between the abuse of big cats by private zoo owners and the killing of them by trophy hunters. They both see these wonderful animals as creatures to be used by them for their entertainment. They don’t see the bigger picture which is to try and arrange the world so that wildlife can live in harmony with humankind. And if they had that attitude we wouldn’t be in the dire situation that we are in at the moment with climate change and the general abuse of the planet.
The world can be divided into two types of people: those that lack sensitivity towards animals and those who are concerned about their welfare. Baskin is firmly in the latter category and Exotic is in the former. They are at opposite ends of the spectrum which is a point, it seems, that Netflix missed.
It intrigues me as to what sort of person likes to abuse or use the cats for their entertainment. I’m not saying, incidentally, that all private zoos are terribly bad but the concept is bad and often the animals are mistreated either through ignorance or deliberately. At the far end of the scale of animal abuse there are sociopathic and psychopathic people who take out their personality disorders on animals. The sociopathic personality develops in early childhood and is a conduct disorder.
People who are able to be cruel to animals have no conscience and lack remorse about the consequences of their behaviour. Private zoo owners are not sociopathic necessarily but there is a spectrum, in my view, of sociopathic behaviour. At the far end is plain abuse and at the other end you have this mild, constant abuse of animals such as big cats in unsuitable private zoos. Joe Exotic had a very big zoo, the biggest private zoo in the world, but his mentality was one of how to use the animals to make money. There was a complete lack of sensitivity towards them. He used tiger cubs for photo shoots and when they had grown up he wanted to dispose of them.
And on that subject of Joe Exotic, it is unsettling to see that he has become somewhat of a celebrity while in prison, serving a 22 year sentence for his conspiracy to murder Carole Baskin and on other charges of animal abuse. Once again, it appears that there is a segment in American society who admire this man. These are the animal abusers. These are the people who hound and harass Carole Baskin and threatened violence against her.
This disrespect for and abuse of nature and animals is a major problem in the world, generally. Many conservationists and scientists believe that disrespecting animals is the root cause of the Covid-19 pandemic. I have to agree. The world-renowned British primatologist Jane Goodall voiced this view not long ago. Thankfully she did. She is well respected. I am sure that her words grated with a lot of people in positions of authority who just don’t get the point that she is making.
And there lies another problem. Very often it is the alpha male, who ends up being one of the world’s elites, in positions of authority, sometimes politicians and business leaders who simply lack this sensitivity towards animals and a respect for them. How often do we see wealthy business leaders paying large sums of money to shoot lions in Africa? And most of these trophy hunters come from America. It is these people who maintain the status quo on the abuse of nature and wildlife and make it hard to change course.
The best-known trophy hunter of them all is the Minnesotan dentist, Walter Palmer, who shot Cecil, a well-known lion with the help of a guide. He was vilified and had to go into hiding for a while. His personality is very similar to the personality the people who threaten the life of Carole Baskin. They are all in the same category: abusers and users of wildlife for personal gain and pleasure.
Carole Baskin is in the business of genuine wildlife conservation. She is sensitive to the plight of these animals and respectful of them. It’s a great shame that she is persecuted by this small, unpleasant segment of society.