Full Title Name:  China Case Studies: #4. Live Food for the Tigers

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Song Wei Place of Publication:  Animal Legal and Historical Web Center Publish Year:  2005

A short case study form China about the practice of feeding captured animal like tiger, live goats and cows as entertainment.

I remember that in my childhood, every weekend I would ask to go and see my lovely animal friends. Then my parents would take me to the zoos, and tell me stories of every kind of animals. The lumberly black bear, smart monkey, cute rabbit, and tame sheep all impressed themselves on my memory till now. I’ve always, in my mind, regarded zoo to be a shelter for animals; however, my concept began to shake since a series of cruel things happened recently.


The cruel thing I mentioned above is the phenomenon that “tiger vivifeeding” arose as a new, exciting and wonderful show in the animal performances in many safari parks in our country. Let me here pick one of the safari parks in Nanjing as an example. In their abortive performance --“feed tigers with living cattle”, they put in one cage two tigers and one cattle. In order to make it easier for the ferity-lost tigers to kill the prey, they cover the cattle’s eyes, or even bind its legs together. Still, it is not the end of the poor cattle’s tragic life. Even badly wounded, and gory all over, it is to be put into the cage again, and re-experience all this the next day, and so on and so forth.


This wonderful performance is also put on in the safari parks in Hangzhou. In this time, the players are changed into four tigers and one sheep. Easy to imagine that after the bloody fight, the docile sheep turns to be a not so tasty dinner. The same brutality happens in the scenic Guilin as well.


So, why are bloody performances as such put on in these alleged “animal-protective “safari parks? Here are the explanations from the zookeepers and some of the zoologists: Most of the animals in zoos have little or even no ferity, as they are bred and raised by men. Therefore, in order to protect these rare animals that have already been in severe danger of dying out, “ferity training” should be frequently carried out to ensure the maintenance of their nature. Besides, it requires a lot of money to breed and manage animals like the Chinese tigers, and therefore it is appropriate to raise money so that this work may be accomplished.


I don’t know how you feel by reading the above explanations. Apparently, it sounds reasonable in some degree. However, let’s think a little more. Yes, for the wild animals, since the time they were put into the zoos, freedom went away forever, while the feelings of lonely and boring began to torture them. The perfect scene of animals living in nature will stay only in our memory, and the animal’s deeply-rooted and original ferity is going away. So, it becomes very important to maintain their ferity, but, is our way of ferity-training scientific?


Doctor Jiang guofang in life sciences institution of Nanjing Normal School gave her opinion, “in professional view of biology, it is neither systematic nor scientific to carry out the ‘ferity training’ in this way. “By fixing living animals to let the tigers to prey, we can evoke no ferity but brutal feelings. Further, it is unfair for the little animals, which should have held equal right to live as we do. Xu xiaofeng, another teacher in this institution, pointed out that the commercial purpose was obviously unfolded through their laborious advertisements. The representative of China in National Zoophilist Association also criticized that this alleged “ferity training” was cruel, unscientific, and senseless.


In fact, such cruel scene is not only unscientific, but also bloody and violent, which will have bad impact on the tourists, especially the children. It will lead to people’s violence inclination, and eliminate their kindness to animals and the society. Therefore, we should insist on ending these kinds of brutal activities.


However, it is not easy to end them. Although clear provisions have already been written into the National Regulations for Safari Park (protocol) that “forbid mistreating and slaughtering wild life”, “forbid commercial activities on sick or dead wild life”, and similar announcement has also been issued by China Humane Society, “strongly oppose mistreating wild life, and feeding them with large living animals”. The actuality tells us that these activities are not on the way of vanishing, instead, thriving. Then why? First, mere announcements or injunctions are not sufficient. We need more detailed regulations and corresponding punishments be added into the law to protect our animal friends.


Second, money allures the zookeepers. We can easily smell the commercial scent just from the dazzling advertisement. Compared with “ferity training”, the number of the visitors is much more important to the zookeepers, as the ticket is a lot more expensive than that of the other performances. For example, the ticket of the Nanjing “feed tigers with living cattle” reaches 60 RMB. Mr. Wang, a member of the Nanjing humane society remarked that the zookeepers were just making money through the bloody performances. However, a lot of curious visitors are attracted, and some of them even consider it to be “a valuable performance”. It is due to the warm welcome of these audiences, and also their holy notion of elevating the “appreciation value” that this activity thrives. Therefore, to change people’s conceptions and arouse their kindness is the first step in ending this phenomenon.


Safari parks are places that are always supposed to be the heaven for animals, where they’ll be taken good care of, carefully researched and welcome to the visitors to know more about them. However, cruel and bloody scene is performed here, which makes me very sad. Life is wonderful and precious, both for human being and animals, so, let’s keep a humane heart to people, animals, and all lives.


News Report Update on case: Public end macabre feeding at wildlife parks
By Wang Ying (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-16 23:39

Animal lovers in China have forced the end of the grisly spectacle of domestic animals being slowly eaten alive by tigers or lions at China's wildlife parks.

A tiger kills a calf as part of a wildness training in this file photo taken in Jinan, east China's Shandong province February 1, 2005. [newsphoto]

Most of China's 30 wildlife parks have signed an agreement to ban the practice.

The accord received warm welcome from world animal welfare organizations including the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

"The move indicates that the Chinese public's welfare awareness is upgrading," Zhang Li, executive China representative of IFAW, told China Daily Wednesday.

But while the accord signals a positive shift in attitudes, some believe only firm government action will outlaw the macabre feeding times for good.

Zhang said: "A law on animal welfare is badly needed in China to arouse more public concern."

He added: "China has laws to protect rare species of animals but without a specific animal welfare law, zoos will find ways to circumvent the agreement."

To solicit trade, some wildlife parks have promoted live shows -- some using video releases -- of feeding live domestic animals such as cows and horses to tigers, lions and other big cats.

But as many of these once-wild beast have lost much of the their savagery needed for the wild, their "prey" often suffer a bloody, long death lasting for hours.

It is such scenes that horrified some of the public and spurred them into action.

The Bifengxia Nature Reserve in Ya'an of Southwest China's Sichuan Province was forced to stop sacrificing domestic animals after visitors launch strong protests.

"The gory eating habits could lead visitors to believe that animals, both the hunter and the hunted, are only human playthings," said Xie Youxin, deputy general manager of the Wild Animal World in Chengdu of Sichuan.

"The bloody scene could also have implanted violent tendencies in youngsters," Xie added.

Some wildlife parks argued they introduced the live feeding to let big cats in captivity learn survival skills so they can be returned to the wild.

But the IFAW's Zhang said training needs a strict scientific project and not the simple practice of throwing live animals into a pen.

Twenty five major wildlife parks in the country signed the industry self-discipline agreement over the weekend in Kunming, capital of Southwest China's Yunnan Province.

China's first opened in Shenzhen of South China's Guangdong Province in 1993.

But the early boom has turned sour with most wildlife parks in China -- mostly privately run -- now struggling..

Park owners are struggling to pay off their initial investment -- often more than 100 million yuan (US$12 million).

Unlike zoos in cities, most wildlife parks do not enjoy State subsidies.

The situation was exacerbated by the outbreak of SARS and bird flu in the last two years, which saw tourists numbers crash and the mass culling of wild birds inside park grounds.

However, the parks still serve a valuable education and entertainment when run according to public decency.

"Zoos and wildlife parks should play a good role on public education, popular science promotion and scientific research, not solely concentrating on profits," the IFAW's Zhang said.

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