Animal-rights organization Humane Society International (HSI) is urging fans of documentary series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness to boycott all tourist attractions that feature “selfies” with baby tiger and lion cubs and other forms of exploitation of captive big cats. Tiger King revolves around the feud between Joe Exotic—a roadside zoo owner in Oklahoma—and Big Cat Rescue owner Carole Baskin and highlights the cruel trade of wild animals in the United States. However, such instances of abuse are present in many parts of the world. Millions of tourists each year visit South Africa to engage in attractions such as “snuggle cams” and bottle-feeding baby big cats, who are taken away from their mothers and then further abused as they age for other forms of entertainment before being sold to the trophy hunting industry. According to HSI, South Africa has an estimated 8,000 to 12,000 captive-bred lions being held in more than 300 lion farms. In Southeast Asia, tourists are drawn to take photos with tigers, who are given sedation drugs, declawed, and have their teeth removed. 

“Netflix viewers around the world are sickened by what the Tiger King docuseries has brought to light. But it’s more than just a sad story—thousands of big cats around the world endure a similar life of captive exploitation paid for by tourist pounds, euros, and dollars,” HSI Africa Wildlife Director Audrey Delsink said. “Our plea to everyone watching the Tiger King during lockdown is to not simply be appalled by the animal suffering from your sofa, but to pledge never to pay for or support these snuggle scam tourist traps once normal life resumes and the time comes to book a vacation to Africa or South East Asia. These facilities and their activities support and promote an inhumane life of abuse, exploitation, and destruction of big cats for profit.” 

Last week, Baskin slammed Tiger King for downplaying the message of animal abuse—which, according to HSI has been rampant for years—and instead focusing on the drama between her and Exotic. HSI’s sister organization, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), has been working to expose the cruel actions of many characters featured on Tiger King for years. A decade ago, HSUS obtained undercover footage that showed baby cubs at Exotic’s zoo being torn from their mothers, punched in the face (as a form of “training”), dragged by their leashes, and denied proper veterinary care. 

HSUS is a member of the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance and, along with Baskin, are directing 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 that would ban ownership of big cats and the use of cubs for photo opportunities.

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