NEWS AND VIEWS: In a crass example of animal cruelty in Thailand, Lady Freethinker has exposed the objectionable practice of stuffing cigarette lighter flames under the noses of tigers to force them to lift up their heads for pictures with tourists. It’s unimaginable and not only is it a violation of animal welfare laws in Thailand but is also a violation of the Buddhist religion, which is by far the most popular religion in Thailand (94% of Thais are Buddhists). But it happens freely. Clearly the law is unenforced making it worse than useless.
Buddhism requires Buddhists to treat animals in a kind way; to do no harm to animals or as little harm as possible. The BBC says that Buddhists try to show ‘loving-kindness to all beings, including animals’. Empty words.
Clearly, religion does not have a hold on the attitudes of Thai people living in Thailand. It’s a take it or leave it attitude and when it comes to the commercialisation of animals the demands of the religion are conveniently forgotten.
The Independent, in reference to the LFT report, states that the abuse of captive tigers in Thailand is still rampant despite animal rights groups raising concerns about the treatment of big cats in Thailand for many years.
They say that they found the abuse of animals used in photo sessions on 11 zoos across Thailand. It’s the first time that placing a cigarette lighter under the nose of a tiger has been recorded.
They also found that animals were whipped and big cats such as tigers and lions and big cat hybrids such as ligers are chained by the neck while they lie on concrete slabs. When not being photographed in this objectionable way they are kept in barren concrete enclosures.
A petition has been launched by Lady Freethinker to stop the cruelty. They are communicating with Thai officials to ban the abuse of animals in photo sessions.
Selfies with tigers combined with the heavy use of social media platforms has been blamed for this increase in animal abuse. It seems to me to be a degeneration of moral standards thanks to the desire of people to demand a selfie with a chained-up tiger so that they can put it on their social media page combined with the commercialisation of captive tigers in order to satisfy this demand.
The Tiger Temple and Western Thailand was recently shut down after years of abuse and illegal breeding. The Independent reports that that facility was bringing in $6 million annually. An indication of how profitable the abuse of tigers can be.
The investigators visited zoos in every part of Thailand. They believe that what they discovered is very representative of the situation in Thailand.
Elisa Allen, Vice President of UK Programs and Operations at PETA said that, “The quest for a cute selfie or a few likes on social media has fuelled a lucrative worldwide market for exploitation and cruelty.”
She also said that cubs are prematurely torn away from their mothers and forced to “work” all day without food, water or rest in photo sessions.
The Lady Freethinker investigator said that it was very hard to see the abuse and it left them in tears. They found that it was much worse than they had expected.
Allen said that tiger abuse is rampant throughout Thailand and other parts of Asia. Selfies with big cat is widespread in Asia. Behind those cute photographs which the public like so much is a lifetime of deprivation cruelty and misery for the animals concerned.
Fortunately, through a consistent campaign from animal lovers and animal rights advocates, petting sessions and the kinds of abuses mentioned are becoming less and less acceptable to the public. But there’s a lot more work to do to stop it.
Comment: it seems to me that the abuses I’ve mentioned, thankfully exposed by Lady Freethinker, is an extension of the general attitude in Asia towards animals. it is not that dissimilar to eating the tiger which takes place extensively in China where tigers are farmed for their flesh and bones in the believe that eating tigers carries medicinal benefits for the consumer. It is horrible superstition without scientific support resulting in more big cat abuses. And it leads to poaching of wild tigers which in turn seriously jeopardises their survivability in the wild.
All these acts of tiger abuse undermine the value of the tiger which engenders more abuse. It’s a way of indoctrinating people into believing that tigers have little value other than to entertain people and it doesn’t matter if the entertainment results in horrible abuses.
In the United States, Carole Baskin was successful in campaigning for the Big Cat Public Safety Act which bans the kind of cub petting photo sessions referred to and big cat abuses. Thailand could learn from Baskin and the US.
Related: tiger poaching
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