Do Endangered Tigers Belong at a County Fair?
The Topsfield Fair that was held this October in Topsfield, MA, added six Bengal tigers to its list of amusements this year.
Terry Frisco’s tigers, from the “Bengal Tiger Encounter” were on display all day with three scheduled shows throughout the day and gave fair goers the opportunity to feed the tigers raw meat. A 4-month-old tiger also had its own little demonstration.
While people weren’t allowed to touch or have direct contact with the tigers, their presence raised concerns about safety issues, for both people and the tigers, along with the message it sends about keeping exotic animals in captivity and forcing them to travel long distances and entertain the masses.
“Any time you deal with animals, there are people that say animals belong in the wild, but tigers are going extinct,”¯ said Frisco.
He’s right about tiger’s not doing so well. It’s now estimated that there are more tigers in captivity than there are in the wild, which is now believed to be around 3,000. Threats to their habitats, disappearing prey and poaching to feed the market for tiger skins, bones and other body parts for use in fashion and traditional Asian medicine has left the future looking pretty bleak for these big cats.
However, keeping tigers in captivity isn’t necessarily benefitting them. It’s estimated that 95% of the tigers in the U.S. are in private hands where there are huge gaps in regulations where they’re concerned. There is no way to definitively track how many tigers are, who owns them, where they’re kept or what happens to them when they die.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund estimates that there are 5,000 to 10,000 captive tigers in the U.S. who are classified as “generic,” not purebred, and are therefore not protected as endangered. A USFWS rule exempts these tigers from the permit and reporting requirements that are required for endangered species.
The lack of regulation has also led to worries that captive tigers may be vulnerable to domestic and international illegal trade, and if they are that it would increase trade and demand, which would further threaten the remaining tigers in the wild. Keeping tigers in captivity also does nothing for conservation or to address the role they play as top predators in the ecosystem.
It’s also notable that Terry Frisco has a very special family. He learned the business from his father Joe who used to train elephants for Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey circus. His brother Tim works with the Carson & Barnes circus. If the name Tim Frisco rings a bell, it’s because he was the one caught on video “training” elephants behind the scenes by violently beating them with bullhooks and electric prods while screaming, “Sink it in his foot. Tear it off! make ‘em scream!” and “Don’t touch ‘em. Hurt ‘em!”
Terry and Joe also owned Dumbo, through their Wonderful World of Animals business. Dumbo is the elephant who killed her groomer Andrew Anderton by kicking him repeatedly before she was subdued. Maybe you even saw the campaigns to save baby Val the elephant, who was on the road at a mere two years of age with Frisco, from her life at the Carson and Barnes Circus, which has its own list of animal welfare violations.
Please sign the petition asking the Topsfield Fair to help put an end to animal abuse and to keep people and animals safe by not to inviting exotic animals back.
Photo credit: sarowen via flickr