How Netflix's 'Tiger King' can harm wildlife and humans

Netflix's Tiger King documentary was highly popular. I think, for a while, it was their highest rated production. It made a celebrity out of Joe Exotic. He is not a celebrity but a foolish individual with a disdain for animal welfare and a convicted criminal. It appears that there is going to be a second series because of the popularity of the first. There may be spin-offs because I read that Louis Theroux wants to dive into the murky world of Joe Exotic again.

Wild animals kept as pets in the UK
Wild animals kept as pets in the UK. Graphic: The Sun 
newspaper. Date: 17/03/2021.

But all this focus on keeping tigers and other exotic animals as pets in a self-indulgent way is damaging to wildlife conservation and it also represents a distorted relationship between humans and other animals. Wild animals are not ours to possess and use for our entertainment. We should do all we can to allow them to live natural lives in the wild. Sadly too many foolish and inscrupulous individuals prefer to possess them, use them and exploit them.

Two things come to mind about that attitude which are very damaging. Firstly, even in the UK, which is supposedly a union of countries of animal lovers, the possession of exotic animals has soared after the Netflix's hit show was aired last year.

An extra 210 licences were granted under the Dangerous Wild Animal Act for 3,951 exotic wild animals which have been gathered from across the world. What is the source of these creatures? Are they cubs who have been ripped away from their mothers in Asia? We need to ask these questions. Or are they being bred in some backyard, crappie facility for sale to gullible people? Unscrupulous people exploit gullible people's demand for exotic creatures.

This is both bad for people and for the animals concerned. This unsustainable and unethical trade in living and dead wildlife is indirectly and in part been fuelled by Netflix's Tiger King series. There is no place for another series. Let's put the thing to bed.

Tiger bone wine
Tiger bone wine. Pic in public domain.

It has turned a criminal, Joe Exotic, into a celebrity. That is unhelpful. It's hard to fathom but in the UK 320 wild cats are kept this pets. This number includes 11 lions, 8 tigers, 11 leopards, 18 mountain lions, 10 cheetahs, two ligers (male lion-female tiger hybrid) and one Jaguar.

Another problem with this sort of trade is that it is exposing humankind to the possibility of another pandemic. If the attitude of people towards animals is to possess and abuse them it's a dangerous route to go down. It's almost certain, although hass not been proved by scientific evidence, that the coronavirus pandemic was caused by an abuse of animals at a wet market in Wuhan, China.

It is shocking that people's attitude towards animals has not been adjusted by this pandemic. China is cleaned up their mess and sharpened up their wet markets of which there were 22,000 in the country. They pretty well blocked the WHO investigation into the source of the pandemic so we will never find out for sure what caused it, but their attitude towards the human-animal relationship is behind it.

We don't need more Netflix series on the abuse of tigers of the type that they previously aired. If they make the documentary about the abuse of this iconic animal how it damages humankind and the animals then that would be a good thing. But if they simply focus on the celebrity aspect of it we don't need it in both in the interests of humankind and the animals that people abuse.



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