I’m sure you’ve seen the baby tiger photo setups before at local fairs. You may have even participated in them without knowing why you shouldn’t. Don’t feel guilty about it. Most people have no idea about what happens in the backgrounds of these situations.
You simply see a cute baby tiger and know that getting a chance to pet a real one doesn’t happen every day, and what better way to commemorate the experience than having your photo taken with one?
The thing is, when you do this you are paying money to support something that promotes animal cruelty, and that, of course, is never a good thing. Here is why you should avoid having that photo taken, and should encourage others to do the same.
There are strict USDA guidelines about how old a tiger cub must be when allowed to interact with humans. After they reach the age of 12 weeks, their job is over – so those involved in these operations try to squeeze out as much work as they can out of these cubs before they’re too old to do so.
This is doing no favors for the cubs since they’re away from their mothers far too often, and it causes them to imprint on humans instead of their mother. This isn’t a good thing.
Also keep in mind that if the tiger cub appears calm, that isn’t necessarily a good thing. It is a learned reaction to negative stimuli by the photo exhibitor. Cubs learn to stay still to avoid having this happen.
A lot of these photo ops claim to be associated with an animal rescue or sanctuary, but that simply isn’t the truth. The Animal Legal Defense Fund has claimed that they’ve researched all of the tiger exhibitors in the United States, and not a single one is involved in any real conservation matters.
However, all of them involved neglect, abuse and animal trafficking.
As I mentioned above, the cubs can only be used for these photo ops until they reach the age of 12 weeks. So what happens to them after they’re no longer raking in the money? Unfortunately, they are often killed or continue to live in really horrific conditions as adults.
This is because taking care of such large animals can be incredibly expensive, and to avoid that cost they either cut down to providing the absolute minimum. The USDA only requires that big cats such as tigers be kept in a chain-link enclosure that isn’t much bigger than a typical parking space. They don’t require any sort of stimuli, and the floor needs only be concrete.
Tigers are also often sold off to the highest bidder so that they can make some sort of final profit, and the fate of those sold isn’t all that bright either. They might be killed for their pelts, bones or meat or shipped off to be used as a target for trophy hunters. It really is a lose-lose situation for them in the end.
So what can you do about it? Simply try to help spread the word and make the situation of these baby tigers known. If you see it happening in real life, don’t be quiet about it. Don’t give them a single cent. It may not seem like much, but sometimes the smallest of words can carry the largest of punches.
You can also consider donating the money you would have spent on a photo towards real rescues, such as the Big Cat Rescue, Lions, Tigers & Bears Sanctuary or research and take part in the Big Cat Public Safety Act.