After almost 30 years in this travel caper, seeing my first tiger in India ranks among my favourite moments... in the wild. Louis Theroux's show last night filled me with despair and anger in equal measure. The trite paper reviews this morning do the same. The best chances of seeing tigers wild, in large national parks are still in Madhya Pradesh in central India, if you just want to tick one off, try one of those hideous holding facilities in China where thousands live in slave-like conditions or are parcelled piecemeal in deep freezes, or indeed in bible belt backwaters in the States where Louis filmed.
Everyone will have their own views on zoos and cages, but this was incarceration: a chainmail bordello for cats and other animals. The fact that they were probably coming from worse conditions says nothing for this freak show but does give an indication of the ignorance that manifests itself in these cone-headed badlands.
"I've hurt my back so I can no longer look after my animals," was the pitiful excuse of yet another red-neck before he relinquished his cats to our mulleted protagonist.
Just like puppy mastiffs or indeed tattoos on forearms, they seem such a great idea for a while but just cause pain on separation, so the same is here. When questioned about his feline acquisition "I've just always wanted to own one since I was a kid" was his reasoning; childhood dreams fulfilled make it OK then. Everyone of these animals looked listless and bored, the excuse that they have never known anything different just does not hold water. It is just wrong and the misguided visitors are equally ignorant and stupid to even visit such displays.
But let's not stop with tigers, or ligers, or lions and panthers, try the apes. More ghastly peroxided hosts were trying to show their skills in trying to turn these chimps into their prime mates. They failed, badly. Kept in appalling filthy cages resembling Dickensian orphan rookeries they rebelled, one of them ripping someone's face off. Of many low points, the 'mother' informing her hairy charge that she was going to "beat the shit out of it" was the most distressing. These animals are very close to our DNA in terms of intelligence but I felt sure the chimps were many steps ahead on the IQ front than their keepers.
Throughout, Theroux's straight-bat questions just dug his opponents in deeper. However, this master of the cheap shot has none of the finesse of Sasha Baron Cohen despite middle America being the target of both. It was so obvious what is right and wrong here he could have been more forceful with his interrogations. What a shame that this ghastly story was watered down for prim time by a presenter more focused on his career than their welfare. However his TV aspirations are still small beer compared to the absurd claims of the keeper: "I will euthanize them all if we have to close,"' was the disingenuous remark of our hero as "they love me". Yes, of course they do.This was clearly an act for the camera as he was far more stressed about the money than he was the animals.
There was so many awful moments that I lost track but seeing the pet tradefair with some inbred actually French kissing his primate pet was repugnant. This is little more than animal porn, road-side brothels and road shows for the ignorant: those wanting a quick fix who have never done a moment's research on endangered animals. Cross breeding is another ethical catastrophe – ligers are hybrids of our making and we deserve no praise for this. In one last desperate ghoulish throw of the dice they claimed that they were going to re-invent the sabre tooth tiger.
Patently ridiculous and defying all logic, it was also distressing because people beloved it, the zoo keeper and his mincing partners claimed.
"What is more," he pouted, It is all being done naturally." Yes, if your definition of natural is fences, tiny enclosures and razor wire. Uncannily, two weeks ago police had to shoot an assortment of cats in Ohio (including 'dangerous cheetahs') when one of these 'facilities' opened its gates after financial meltdown. What happens when this one runs out of money? Will he do the same? Desperate, shocking, truly zooillogical – 10,000 tigers live in similar conditions in the US. What is being done about it? Pretty much the same as in China; it's a good job some are not giving up the fight.
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