Volume 92, Issue 24

Friday, October 16, 1998

arresting developments


White tiger exhibit causes animal rights protests

By Ciara Rickard
Gazette Staff

London's Western Fair draws large crowds every year and this past September, as always, they came out in droves. One of the big attractions which helped bring in so many people was the White Tiger exhibit, but this time, one of the larger crowds was outside the gates, protesting the exhibit and the conditions under which the tigers were being kept.

The fair had 15 tigers brought in by the Hawthorne Corporation to perform three shows a day and teach the public a little about the life of a circus animal. Well, the public learned just that and they were outraged.

"It was the most deplorable sight I've ever seen," says Florine Morrison, spokesperson for the London Animal Alliance. "We had a booth and there were hundreds, maybe a thousand people who were appalled by the conditions the tigers were living in. And those were just the people who took the time to seek us out."

The tigers were kept in small, dirty cages and were let out only to perform and for an hour's exercise each morning, Morrison says. She also points out there was no large area for the tigers to run around in and for proper exercise they need more room than the ring in which they perform.

"These animals are totally confined and totally deprived living in stinky cages," Morrison says. "They were pacing in their cages and cowering, walking with their ears back and heads down – all the signs of an abused animal."

Anne Eadie, community relations manager for the Western Fair, did not feel the exhibit was any cause for concern. "As far as I'm concerned, it was not an issue," she says.

John Cuneo of the Hawthorne Corporation also earnestly defends his show and the conditions the tigers were living under. He claims they receive the best possible care and his company is doing the world a service by breeding tigers in captivity.

"They're the finest cages in the country, they're fed the best meat, they get plenty of exercise," Cuneo says. "These [protesters] get a little radical – they expect you to carry a jungle with the tigers."

Cuneo says tigers' natural habitat is disappearing because of development and growing human populations in India and Nepal and if tigers go anywhere near the villages they will be killed.

"Either you have to have a Hitler system and kill all these people or these tigers don't have a future. It's a fact of life," he says. "People like us perpetuate these animals or they'll become extinct because there is no home for them. There is no alternative. Their native land is getting smaller and smaller every year."

Jeremy Locke, animal protection service manager at the London Humane Society, examined the conditions under which the tigers were kept and could find no aspect which violated the law regarding care for animals. His only concern was the lack of space in the cages, but even they were up to standards, he says.

"The law is very lax in caring for animals," says Locke. "We need stricter laws."

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Copyright The Gazette 1998