Netflix has made a documentary series called Tiger King, which was meant to be a big cat version of their documentary exposing animal abuse at SeaWorld called Blackfish. The directors of Tiger King approached animal rights advocate Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue (BCR) about five years ago to discuss the making of the documentary.
It appears to me that at that time the intention may have been to make a true documentary about the abuse of big cats and their commercialisation in America in private zoos where there are more tigers than there are in the entirety of the rest of the world.
However, if there was any purity of intention with respect to this documentary about big cat abuse in America, it appears that it was quickly lost in the desire to sensationalise the whole thing by providing salacious information and according to Carole Baskin lies and innuendo by people who lack credibility. It is claimed that Netflix has besmurched Baskin’s reputation in suggesting that she had a role in the disappearance of her husband, Don, 21 years ago. You can read Carole Baskin’s response to the documentary on her BCR website by clicking on this link. A lot of it focuses on the death of Don which is a complex issue.
Let me say right away that I am a supporter of Carole Baskin and BCR. Years ago I researched BCR due to accusations made about her operation and I couldn’t find anything wrong with it. The problem is that in the US there are a lot of people who exploit tigers and other big cats for financial gain. They strongly dislike BCR and Carole Baskin because she exposes them for what they are. She undermines the cat exploiters and they hate it. They hate it so much that one of them, Joe Exotic, conspired to murder her without success. He is now languishing in jail for this very serious crime.
A petition has been started on the petitionsite.com which criticises Netflix’s documentary and asks them to remove it. The petitioner, Lorelei Hickman, says that the documentary series currently streaming is one-sided and filled with inaccuracies which are harmful to the reputation of BCR and its founder Carole Baskin. She says that BCR has earned the highest ratings from Charity Navigator, which is an independent organisation with stringent standards.
Lorelei says that the documentary paints Baskin as no better than the people who abuse cats for money. I know this lady and I completely believe her. I’ve not seen the documentary but I have to believe Lorelei Hickman and Carole Baskin because they are people of integrity in contrast to Joe Exotic.
To return to some comments that Carole made about the documentary. Apparently it gives an impression that large crowds of visitors attend BCR all the time. This is inaccurate because this part of the documentary was filmed during BCR’s once a year event called the Walkabout. For the rest of the year, visitors are limited to groups of 20 on guided tours where they learn about the problems facing big cats in captivity and in the wild.
The documentary also provides misleading information about the size of the enclosures at BCR. They give the impression that they are small and Joe Exotic claims that the documentary is accurate in this regard. Carole states that her smallest enclosure is the size of a small house at about 1200 ft.² and the largest is over 2 acres. The enclosure is highly natural and full of foliage.
Also, BCR is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. This organisation has the highest of standards in the industry writes Baskin.
Research indicates that the evidence supports the view that BCR is a well-run, big cat sanctuary providing a very valuable service in the USA, sometimes under difficult circumstances. The burden of responsibility taken on by Carole and her staff is enormous as the running costs are vast. I see BCR as working against the mainstream because there are so many badly run private zoos in the US which deceive the public into believing that they are doing something good for animal welfare and conservation. It is baloney. We don’t know how many private zoos there are but there are an estimated 7,000 captive tigers in the US.
As mentioned, Mr Exotic is in prison at the moment and I don’t know the current state of play at his massive private zoo which was the biggest in the country. I hope it’s been disbanded humanely and decently.
Note: this is an opinion article based on news.
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