This week, Carole Baskin, owner of animal-rescue organization Big Cat Rescue, expressed her disappointment about the portrayal of animals in new Netflix series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. The docu-series follows the feud between Joe Exotic, an Oklahoma roadside zookeeper, and Baskin—who worked to shut down Exotic’s zoo—along with other eccentric characters classified loosely as “big cat people.” While Tiger King does portray the cruelty of the exotic animal trade and the use of animals for entertainment, Baskin believes that much of the show’s content—such as claims that she killed her husband by putting him through a meat grinder and feeding him to the sanctuary cats—is sensationalized and false.
“When the directors of the Netflix documentary Tiger King came to us five years ago they said they wanted to make the big cat version of Blackfish (the documentary that exposed abuse at SeaWorld) that would expose the misery caused by the rampant breeding of big cat cubs for cub petting exploitation and the awful life the cats lead in roadside zoos and back yards if they survive,” Baskin wrote in a blog post. “There are [no] words for how disappointing it is to see that the docu-series not only does not do any of that, but has had the sole goal of being as salacious and sensational as possible to draw viewers.” Baskin points out that the series’ focus on the disappearance of her husband Don, and her purported role, was inaccurate and took away from the abuse endured by animals kept in captivity for entertainment. “They did not care about [the] truth,” Baskin wrote. “The unsavory lies are better for getting viewers.” Baskin went on to lay out the facts about her relationship with Don and the circumstances behind his disappearance, refuting that she is to blame.
Baskin also pointed out other inaccuracies such as the depiction of a big crowd at Big Cat Rescue (which gave the impression that the sanctuary was operating tours for large profits) which was filmed during its annual Walkabout event and not a routine day. “The good news is that the series appears to have reached an audience that had no clue about roadside zoos and hopefully now see the seedy underbelly of this exploitative and abusive business,” Baskin wrote. “It has been interesting to see that some people who have contacted us have complained that animals should not be in cages.” Baskin directed citizens to voice their concerns about the suffering of big cats to their legislators by asking them to support The Big Cat Public Safety Act, federal legislation led by Big Cat Rescue that aims to ban ownership of big cats and the use of cubs for photo opportunities.
Editor’s note: story updated to reflect correct name of the Big Cat Rescue.