I have been contemplating whether to write about an experience I recently had - now, looking at the pictures I took and the strong feelings that still burn deep within me, I feel that it is my obligation to do so.
From June 27th to July 1st, there was a carnival held in a nearby town. I received a flyer in the mail, and what caught my eye was an advertisement for a "Free Tiger Show." I knew that was bad news, and I thought I would just stay away from it. If just reading about it upset me, actually witnessing it would be worse.
Well, curiosity and anger got the better of me, and I went to the carnival. I walked over to the area where the "show" was to be held. There were flyers posted around the gate outside the "performance ring" that billed the show as "The Exotic Tiger and Lion Show" with the show times being 3pm, 7pm and 9pm.
Inside the ring there were pedestals, a standing pole with a hoop attached on the top, two gates, and a long platform. I had such bad vibes from this and then, I felt even worse. Behind the ring I saw the trailer that housed the cats. I saw a white tiger laying down and blankly staring out from behind the bars, and an orange tiger that just kept pacing back and forth in his cage. It was very difficult for me to see them like this. All I kept thinking was "They're not supposed to be here."
Close to showtime, music began to resonate through the speakers. A woman appeared and proceeded to tell us about herself, the handler (5th and 6th generation animal handlers - I learned their names were Georgina and Vincent Van Duke,) and "their babies." The show included a male lion, a lioness, a white tiger, a Bengal tiger, and a Siberian tiger. Each cat was introduced and the handler released them into the ring where they were directed to their pedestals. Profound sadness filled my heart as I watched these magnificent animals being reduced to sitting on their "assigned seats" and being gawked at. I not only felt sad, but I was very angry too.
We were told the white tiger is "an endangered species," but now its' numbers are increasing due to breeding here in the United States. I'm sure many watching did not realize that the white tiger is not a natural occurrence and it is severe inbreeding that produces white tiger cubs. Most are born with physical problems such as *immune deficiency, strabismus (crossed eyes), scoliosis of the spine (distorted spine), cleft palates, mental impairments and early death.* (*source: http://www.bigcatrescue.org/white_tigers.htm)
Once again, I implore everyone to visit Big Cat Rescue's page about "The White Tiger Fraud" at: http://www.bigcatrescue.org/white_tigers.htm).
Then it was time for the "real show" to begin. The cats walked across a long platform placed atop higher pedestals, jumped over gates, (the male lion just crawled under the gates - part of "the show") and one of the tigers jumped through a ring of fire.
After the show, each cat jumped over a barrier back into his or hers cages. As a special added attraction, a young male lion was released into the ring. He was tossed a ragged cardboard box to play with (an enrichment session??)
Even though I knew this would probably be what the so-called show was like, I was appalled to watch these majestic animals degraded and exploited.
These big, beautiful cats were not meant to be caged, and performing such inane acts. I wondered how they were cared for - if they were cared for, and what their life must be like - caged and hauled in a trailer from town to town . At times when I looked at the tigers it almost seemed they were looking right at me - right through me. I know "our eyes met." My heart was a maelstrom of emotions - sad, angry, disturbed and wishing somehow I could help them. Only those who share a deep love for these cats can understand it. If in some small way this message reaches people and makes them realize that this is not the environment for these cats to be in - I will feel I did something to help them and be their voice. That is why I decided to write this; to express my feelings and to let people know - this is wrong.
For more information on legislation for the big cats, please visit: Big Cat Rescue's Legislative Action Center at: http://capwiz.com/bigcatrescue/home/
Please view my accompanying video about "The Exotic Tiger & Lion Show" at either of the following: