A Beast of Power and Beauty Driven to... Filial Cannibalism?
February 15, 2015
“She paces so much she has sores on her feet and she still won’t stop.”
These are the words the owner of a 225-pound “elegant Siberian tiger” told a former Eugene Register Guard reporter while the writer was researching locally owned wild animals 1987. The tiger was kept in a cement-floored, chain-link cage and paced incessantly back and forth. In the reporter’s words: “A beast of power and beauty so driven to move that she endured the pain of blistered feet.”
I never saw the original article, but the column in today’s Register Guard which depicted that scene was about disposing of clutter. The author connected the two by explaining how “the tiger’s relentless energy seemed to connect with something restrained inside of me,” and then proceeded to write about decluttering her house.
I personally could not focus on a “Declutter Challenge” after visualizing the living conditions of that poor tiger, an image the reporter herself called haunting. And I do not believe it was relentless energy which drove the tiger to pace endlessly, but her instinctive need to roam free.
Siberian tigers have been known to have a range of more than 4,000 square miles, according to the site lion_roar.tripod.com, and one was recorded traveling 620 miles in 22 days in search of food. Tigers do not belong in a cage, on a concrete pad, or incarcerated in a traveling circus. This is not news to most people. And yet, exotic animals are kept in horrid conditions here in the U.S. and other countries, and many of those captive creatures are forced to perform for our “entertainment.”
When I lived in the circus, the only time the tigers were allowed outside of their 8’ x 8’ prisons was to rush through a metal tunnel and into a performance ring so they could leap
through rings of fire. No circus animals fare well, but that life is particularly hard on tigers. Is it a surprise to anyone that some of the mothers ate their newborn babies? Yes, circus tigers eat their newborn babies. Put them in their mouth, chew them up, and swallow them. Zoologists could surely recite a variety of reasons for filial cannibalism, but I believe those mothers ate their young in order to prevent them from suffering through 20 years of the same hideous life.
Circus tigers pace too. Back and forth. Rubbing their fur off and skin raw against the bars of their cages. For most, their only hope for freedom is death. Why is it that in the United States, the bastion of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we still allow exotic animals to be treated so inhumanely?