Category: animal abuse

Ballsy Thai Tourist Grabs Tiger’s Crown Jewels

Look at the balls on this one!

A woman from Thailand apparently decided that caging, beating and sedating tigers for selfies wasn’t enough mistreatment for Earth’s critically endangered apex predators. You can always add more insult, just a little icing on the “We Destroyed Your Entire Species” cake, by grabbing a handful of tiger testicles and mean-mugging for a selfie.

Of course the reason the tourist, named Waraschaya Akkarachaiyapas (also referred to as Khun Waraschaya in some media reports), was able to enter the tiger enclosure and pose with the tigers in the first place is because the keepers at Tiger Kingdom zoo in Thailand sedate the animals until they can barely yawn, rendering them incapable of defending their personal space or doing anything other than laying down as tourist after tourist touches them and poses for selfies.

Tiger Kingdom was at the forefront of the so-called “Disneyfied” “zoo experience,” in which the operators rake in millions by breeding tiger cubs like an assembly line and charging tourists to interact and pose for photo with the animals.

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The tourists are told comforting lies: Employees of Tiger Kingdom dress like Buddhist monks, spout platitudes about being one with nature, and claim their “humble” operation began when one kindly monk took in an orphaned cub and founded a sanctuary decades ago.

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Tourists are told that kindly monks founded a sanctuary after taking in an orphaned tiger cub.

The reason the tigers are so docile, the tourists are told, is because the monks hand-raise them, socializing them with humans from a young age. (Paging Siegfried and Roy, as well as Joe Exotic’s two former employees who lost limbs to hand-reared tigers!)

The comforting fiction allows tourists to justify what they’re doing: When an acquaintance of mine proudly changed her social media profile photo to a shot of herself hugging an adult tiger, she acted as if she was shocked by the suggestion that the tigers were sedated. No, she explained, you don’t understand! These tigers were hand-raised by the monks from the time they were cubs! That’s why they love spending 12 hours a day having their tails pulled and getting mounted by tourists who want to ride them like horses. They love it!

It takes only a few seconds to refute what we’ll gently call that misconception: Articles abound of former employees and conservation experts describing horrific conditions for the animals at Tiger Kingdom. (It’s not the only “zoo” that thrives on selling big cat interactions in Thailand: When the infamous “Tiger Mountain” attraction was raided by authorities in 2016, they found the remains of more than 60 tiger cubs, tiger pelts, and “around 1,500 tiger skin amulets, plus other trinkets apparently made of tiger teeth.”)

The cubs, who would normally spend at least two years with their mothers, are taken away when they’re infants so Tiger Kingdom’s employees can hand-raise them, and not with the care and good intent they claim: The operators want the cubs to be accustomed to being handled and passed around so they don’t protest too much when tourists manhandle them.

The cubs are big money-makers, and tourists will pay a premium to feed them from milk bottles. The baby tigers are fed and fed until they can’t drink anymore, then they’re fed some more, former employees say. The bottle-feeding only stops when the day’s over and there are no more tourists forking over an additional $15 to get “adorable” photos of themselves with the babies.

That’s also the age when the cubs are introduced to the bamboo stick, the primary tool for keeping them in line. A cub who doesn’t want to leave its cage for another day of manhandling and force-feeding is smacked on the nose with a bamboo stick until it complies.

Tiger attractions like the infamous one at Thailand’s Tiger Kingdom have popped up all around the world, with interest fueled by enthusiastic reviews from celebrities like Beyoncé, who shared photos of her visit to an American tiger park with her millions of Instagram followers.

If Queen Bey says it’s okay, then it must be okay. Okay? 

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Queen Bey says it’s okay to mess with tiger cubs and chimp babies, so it must be okay!
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Queen Bey says it’s okay!

Life as a cub at Tiger Kingdom is a walk in the park compared to adulthood. Most of the adults are confined in cages 24 hours a day and are only let out on busy days when the operation swells with visitors who want tiger selfies. (Tiger selfies are extraordinarily popular with men who use them on dating site profiles, and Buddy’s home state of New York went so far as to ban tiger selfies because of their prevalence.)

When you consider the context, it’s really not surprising when someone like Waraschaya Akkarachaiyapas feels perfectly comfortable literally molesting the animals for her amusement.

We’ve poached this species to the brink of extinction and destroyed its habitat. We make rugs of their pelts, mount their taxidermied heads to our walls, sell their claws and teeth as trinkets, and grind their bones into dust for use in elixirs that allegedly cure ailments like baldness and erectile disfunction, according to ridiculous millennia-old folk medicine systems. (Having exhausted their supply of tigers to slaughter for traditional Chinese “medicine,” the Chinese have turned to poaching the Amazon’s jaguars to fuel their insatiable appetite for big cat parts. Jaguar poaching has skyrocketed “200 fold” in the last five years to fuel Chinese demand for animal parts.)

In that context, literally molesting a helpless animal is a drop in the ocean of abuse, decimation and the destruction of the dignity of these amazing animals. We’re supposed to be the intelligent species on this planet, the wise caretakers of the only world that we know of brimming with life. We are failing miserably.

 

Cat’s Brutal Murder May Be A Hate Crime, Police Say

After Josie Saltarelli’s cat, Capone, went missing for a few days, it was her 13-year-old daughter who found him — directly across from the family’s driveway and cleaved neatly in two, as if to send a message.

“I don’t know how anyone could do that to an animal,” Saltarelli told a local TV news channel in Oklahoma. “The last image we have of him is cut in half and gutted. My 13-year-old daughter had to see that and that is our memory of him, and it’s awful.”

Capone had been with the family his entire life, for nine years, and was well-loved, his family and neighbors told local media. He was found on Aug. 20.

Police and a local veterinarian have ruled out another animal, due to the precision of Capone’s wounds and the fact that the cat was placed in front of their home.

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Capone in his family’s home.

Now there’s a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest, and police in Tulsa are treating the killing as a hate crime. They suspect the cat was killed because Saltarelli’s boyfriend is a police officer, and the family flies a “Thin Blue Line” flag in front of their home as a message of support for law enforcement. Like officers in many smaller jurisdictions, Saltarelli’s boyfriend also drives his patrol car home and parks it in his driveway.

“For that reason, investigators believe someone could be targeting the officer and his family,” the Tulsa Police Department wrote in a press release about the case.

The Oklahoma Alliance for Animals is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for killing Capone.

“It is well documented and proven that violence and abuse against animals leads to other major crimes,” the group wrote in a Facebook post about the killing, “including violence against children and elders. We need to find the person who did this.”

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The pro-law enforcement flag in front of the family’s Tulsa home.

 

Cats Suffer From Human Mental Illness Too

Having Google alerts set up for cat-related new can yield some pretty awesome and unique stories as fodder for this blog, but it can also be seriously depressing, with story after story about cats getting shot with arrows, pellets and bullets, cats poisoned with antifreeze, cats abused for online fame and even cats killed by psychotic ex-boyfriends or girlfriends.

There are, unfortunately, plenty of hoarding stories as well, and they’re a reminder that cats don’t just suffer physical abuse at the hands of humans, they suffer mental abuse and neglect by mentally ill people.

That’s the case in Park Township, Michigan, where authorities acting on a tip found more than 150 cats living in “deplorable conditions”. Even protective gear couldn’t entirely filter the smell inside the home, animal control officers said.

The town declared the house unfit for human habitation and the local animal authority, St. Joseph County Animal Control, needed help from nearby animal shelters and rescues to confiscate the cats, who will be given veterinary care and rehabbed before they’re offered for adoption.

The raid was “by far” the “biggest animal seizure we’ve done,” animal control supervisor Greg Musser told the local NBC affiliate.

The cats range in age from newborn kittens to adults. Two cats were euthanized. Taking in more than 150 cats is no small task, and the shelter is asking for help with cat/kitten food, litter and other supplies.

“We have been working tirelessly to take care of all these cats on top of the normal business,” the shelter’s Facebook page reads. “We are doing our best to answer the phone and return messages. We are in need of wet and dry kitten food, litter, pee pads, laundry detergent and bleach. We are also in need of gently used baby blankets.”

In an updated story, authorities in a nearby town found similar hoarding conditions in a second property owned by the same woman, who moved some of the cats between them after a natural gas leak at the first home.

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While the number of cats is unusual, the story is not: Rescuers confiscated 50 cats and 30 raccoons from a home in Ohio on Aug. 6, following the rescue of 97 cats from another Ohio home two weeks earlier. Less than two weeks ago, the SPCA pulled more than 30 dog and cats from a Pennsylvania home in which the inside temperature exceeded 100 degrees. Authorities found 150 cats in a Toronto home last month, including several kittens who were in seriously bad shape.

Those are just a sampling pulled from the first few results on Google News. Doubtless a lot of these people mean well when they start taking in cats, and the behavior is the result of untreated mental illness. But what can be done to protect cats from these situations?

Featured image credit Chamber of Hoarders. It depicts another hoarding situation, similar to the Michigan case.

NYT Columnist: ‘If I owned a gun, I swear I would have shot that cat’

What would you do if you encountered a hungry, injured feral cat hiding under a car near your home?

If your first thought is to help the poor little one, enlist the aid of a local rescue and get the cat some much-needed veterinary attention and food in its belly, congratulations: You’re a human being with a conscience.

One New York Times columnist, however, thinks the solution is to indulge in a fantasy about murdering the innocent animal, of using a weapon she doesn’t own and soundly disapproves of to wipe it from existence.

When Margaret Renkl saw the “ragged, battle-scarred tom, thin but not emaciated, with one eye that didn’t open all the way,” her first thought was to kill it, not help it.

“If I owned a gun, I swear I would have shot that cat,” Renkl wrote in her Aug. 3 column, titled “Death of a Cat. “I would have chased that hissing cat out from under the car without a thought and shot it as it fled.”

Imagine: An effete, 60-something, morally self-satisfied woman playing Charles Bronson, standing over the corpse of a cat and slipping a still-smoking pistol into its holster before heading back inside to tweet-lecture the unwashed masses on civil rights, COVID etiquette and respect for wildlife.

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A feral cat. (Credit)

The staff of the New York Times really seems to be working overtime to prove it’s tone-deaf and hypocritical: It wasn’t so long ago that a Times columnist tut-tutted those who disapprove of breeding and selling $20,000 designer cats while millions of homeless animals are euthanized annually.

Times columnist Alexandra Marvar even went so far as to praise people who use their wealth and connections to flout laws against poaching illegal wildlife, reminiscing about the days when “wild cat companions were were associated glamour, class and creativity.”

“Salvador Dalí brought his ocelot to the St. Regis. Tippi Hedren lounged with her lions in her Los Angeles living room. Josephine Baker’s cheetah, collared in diamonds, strolled the Champs-Élysées. In their time, these wild creatures made chic pets,” Marvar wrote.

While Marvar romanticizes wild animal “ownership,” the reality is sadly less glamorous: Instead of Josephine Bakers leading “chic” diamond-collared cheetahs on idyllic walks through Paris, it’s Texans prodding confused and depressed tigers into tiny backyard enclosures at taser-point, insisting that “muh freedoms” guarantee them the right to treat the world’s iconic megafauna like toys.

So why does Renkl hate cats? Because she’s read bunk scientific research that claims cats kill billions of birds and small animals every year:

I was thinking of the first nest the bluebirds built this spring, the one in which not a single baby survived. I was thinking of the gravid broadhead skink who would lie on our stoop every afternoon, warming her egg-swollen body in the sun. She disappeared one day to lay her eggs and guard her nest, I assumed, but now I wasn’t sure. I was thinking of the chipmunk who lives in a tunnel under our stoop and of the little screech owl, its feet holding down some small prey, its eyes glowing in the infrared light of our trail camera.

The more I thought about those vulnerable creatures, already crowded out by construction and starved out by insecticides, the angrier I got at the feral tom. In truth, I would never kill a cat, but I can surely hate one with a murderous rage. A person who has spent a quarter-century trying to create an oasis for wildlife can go a little mad when a cat shows up in the photos on her trail camera.

Note that Renkl didn’t actually see the starving cat kill those birds or squirrels. She simply assumes that a bird who doesn’t return to her glorious backyard oasis has been gobbled up by evil felines. Her rage is prompted by emotion and assumption, not fact.

She doesn’t have a negative word to say about the construction and pesticide industries either, reserving her “murderous rage” for a raggedy cat just trying to survive because she read studies claiming cats are furry little Adolf Hitlers, exterminating birds one bloody feather at a time.

We’ve talked about those cat-blaming studies here on Pain In The Bud: They’re sloppy meta-analyses of earlier studies using plugged-in, arbitrary data and dubious numbers from questionnaires to arrive at the conclusion that cats kill as many as 20 billion small animals in the US alone.

It’s cherry-picking at its worst, beginning with a pretedermined conclusion and inventing, massaging and selecting “data” to support that conclusion rather than doing the hard work of collecting authentic data and honestly interpreting the results.

The researchers who published those studies should be mortified to have their names attached to them. They’re engaging in activism, not science.

We’re not the only ones who have a problem with the aforementioned studies. A team of scientists and ethicists examined the claims and “found them wanting,” blaming the sloppy science of those studies for the claim that “cats are a zombie apocalypse for biodiversity” and the subsequent war on cats in countries like Australia, where some states offer $10 a scalp for people who kill adult cats and $5 a scalp for kittens.

What kind of twisted logic compels people to kill kittens in the name of protecting animals?

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Bunk research claims are repeated as fact by media outlets. (Source)

The primary and most-cited studies claiming cats kill billions of animals “take specific, local studies and overgeneralize those findings to the world at large,” the critics wrote. The studies ignore “ecological context,” bury contrary evidence and ignore mitigating factors, like the fact that cats often prey on other animals that kill birds.

In other words, they start with a pre-determined conclusion and shape the dubious data to fit, as I wrote above.

And so the claim that cats kill billions of birds and small mammals is repeated as fact by an unskeptical press, and ostensibly serious people, like the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center’s Pete Marra, advocate a “nationwide effort to rid the landscape of cats.” That’s a nice way of saying he wants to kill hundreds of millions of innocent domestic cats because he doesn’t want to see the glaring flaws in studies about the species’ ecological impact. (Marra also compares feral cat advocates to tobacco companies and climate-change deniers, which is an astounding claim from a man whose name is synonymous with manipulating research data to support his views.)

This is absurd stuff, akin to the extermination of cats in the Dark Ages prompted by stories alleging cats were the agents of Satan, witches and heretics, and central figures in devil-worshiping ceremonies. The only difference is the people of the Dark Ages, who didn’t know better, were driven by religious belief. Their modern day counterparts are driven by religion masquerading as science.

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An illuminated text on cats from the Dark Ages, when felines were considered agents of the devil. (Source)

This is what sloppy research has wrought: An army of self-professed animal lovers stalking the dusty plains of Australia and the backyards of the United States, shooting domestic cats with pistols, bows, air rifles and pellet guns.

These people don’t seem keen on thinking about how they justify the callous culling of hundreds of millions of domestic cats — intelligent, sentient animals who have feelings — in an unproven effort to protect birds and rodents.

Renkl ends her column by telling us she got her wish, in a way. A few days later, a neighbor’s kid came to her for help after some wildlife-loving do-gooder poisoned the poor animal. As she watched the tomcat convulse and twitch in an agonizing death, Renkl stopped to take pity…on herself.

“For weeks I have been trying to understand my own tears in the presence of a dying cat I did not love,” she wrote.

To her credit, by the end of the column Renkl does acknowledge her rage is misplaced, generously allowing that a cat trying to survive isn’t evil. But that concession comes after several hundred words painting cats as the driving force behind the destruction of wildlife and presenting flawed studies as credible science.

The damage has already been done.

 

Featured image courtesy of PETA.

UK Cat Positive For COVID: ‘Don’t Kiss Your Pets’

A female Siamese has become the first cat to test positive for COVID-19 in the UK.

The cat almost certainly caught the virus from her COVID-infected owners, authorities said. Christine Middlemiss, the U.K.’s top veterinary official, echoed the CDC in urging people not to freak out:

“There is no evidence to suggest that pets directly transmit the virus to humans,” Middlemiss said. “We will continue to monitor this situation closely and will update our guidance to pet owners should the situation change.”

Owners who have COVID-like symptoms should social distance from their own pets, says Margaret Hosie, a virologist at the University of Glasgow: “Don’t kiss your cat. Don’t have the cat sleeping in a bed with you, and don’t share food with the cat.”

If your cat is anything like mine, good luck trying to tell him he’s not sleeping in your his bed.

Kleptomaniac cat collects goggles

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Avery with his stash of swimming goggles. Credit: BBC

A cat in Bristol, UK, has an odd obsession with swimming goggles. The four-year-old moggie, Avery, has stolen eight pairs so far this summer.

Avery’s human, Sally Bell, said she’s checked with her neighbors and no one’s told her they’re missing goggles, so Avery must be wandering further than realized.

“He doesn’t play with the goggles, he just leaves them for me. In fact, the pair he brought home the other day had a dead mouse with them – two presents at once,” Bell told the BBC. “I feel so bad in case it’s children who are being brought new goggles and they’re getting into trouble because they keep going missing.”

Terrible human beings are terrible

Someone is shooting cats with pellet guns in a Wyandotte, Michigan, neighborhood. Four cats have been killed and a fifth had a leg amputated after he was shot, WDIV reports. There’s a reward for information leading to the shooter’s arrest, and police want to hear from anyone with information about the cat shootings.

Meanwhile, the Humane Society of Utah is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a sicko who tied a cat down, tortured it and set it on fire.

A woman found Sterling the cat on July 21 and brought him to the veterinarian. Little Sterling made it through surgery and remains under the care of the vet, who’s providing pain medication and making sure the tough kitty is being “loved and spoiled.”

“This level of cruelty should unnerve the community,” said the Humane Society’s Rachel Heatley. “In the interest of public safety, an individual who is capable of torturing an animal needs to be identified and taken off the street as soon as possible.”

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Sterling survived and is recovering from his wounds. Credit: Humane Society of Utah