Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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How to Recognise an Abused Tiger

First of all, let me say that it is indeed deeply appalling and disturbing that, according to a recent BBC News article, "an estimated 10,000 tigers [are] kept by private citizens in America - that is more than remain in the wild." The vast majority of these tigers quite probably do live in conditions which are very miserable for any tiger to have to endure, and it's also miserable for us humans to not be able to trust our next-door neighbors to not be keeping tigers in their apartments. In one of the most appalling incidents I've ever read about 90 dead tigers lying around in various states of decay were found at a California home last spring where a child was also residing.

However, PETA's recent reaction to Roy Horn's recent injury - accusing Roy of "beating" the tiger and abusing it - is absurd. Siegfried and Roy have been performing with numerous tigers and lions for over 35 years and have never been injured by any of them before. Anyone who has ever lived with an ordinary domesticated housecat can tell you just how miraculous it would be to live with a bunch of different domesticated housecats for 35 years before ever once being bitten or scratched by any of them! I've never managed much more than one or two years without a scratch or a bite from a cat myself. Siegfried & Roy's tigers were wandering around leashless and it took over 35 years before they ever once attacked anyone? Let me tell you, if those tigers had been feeling the least bit miserable and abused, those tigers would have attacked someone a hell of a lot earlier than that. Those tigers have to be very happy tigers to have never ever attacked anyone for the first 35 years.

Contrary to myth, a tiger is no more incapable of being happy outside of a real live full-size jungle in its full natural state than humans are - who once also, after all, resided in jungles. This does not mean that locking a tiger up in a back room of an apartment with only 10 feet of breathing space and no one else around for company, as Antoine Yates did in Harlem, is anything other than severe unforgivable tiger abuse; it just means that there's a world of difference between Antoine Yates's apartment and the conditions in which Siegfried & Roy house their tigers. Siegfried & Roy's tigers are showered with affection, respect, and space to roam; Antoine Yates's tiger was locked in a room by itself which no one ever dared enter after the tiger reached adulthood, into which Antoine Yates fearfully tossed food through a crack in the door while trying to stay out of the tiger's reach. Keeping a human child in those conditions would be abuse too!

I am not saying that Siegfried & Roy didn't make any mistakes, though - I do believe that they should have had more handlers on the stage at the time and kept the tigers on leashes, both of which other illusionists who work with tigers do. I believe they failed to protect themselves from the tigers as well as they should have. But I believe they got overconfident that way precisely because they were so good at what they did, at the basic issue of keeping the tigers happy, calm, and content. There is no question in my mind that those tigers had to have been very happy indeed in order not to have ever attacked anyone long before now - and if there's really any question in the mind of the PETA president, then I can only conclude that the PETA president has never spent any time at all around domesticated housecats.
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