Friday, November 21, 2008

Tiger Wine

Tigers are the largest of the big cats in the Panthera genus which also includes the Lion, Jaguar, and Leopard. There are six living subspecies, of which all are endangered. They occupy only 7% of their original range, and population estimates are perpetually declining. There are only somewhere around 4,900 tigers left in the wild. One subspecies, the South China Tiger, is almost certain to go extinct in our lifetime with only about 20 individuals left in the wild.

So, normally, you'd be happy to hear that they can be bred in captivity in China, and routinely are. Normally, you'd think 'that's great! Maybe these animal parks can help repopulate the wild.' Normally.

Then you'd find out that the zookeepers at Xiongsen Bear & Tiger Zoo in China were killing the endangered cats, serving the meat as a snack and then dropping the carcasses into vats of wine to create "Tiger Wine," a prized alternative medicine. The Environmental Investigation Agency staff were offered such tiger wine at at another 'animal park' as well.

The idea of this simply makes me sick to my stomach. Clearly I'm an animal lover, and the mere thought of killing such a majestic and powerful animal as a tiger is simply unfathomable.

Tiger Wine Bottle

A Bottle of "Tiger Wine"

China has supposedly banned the trade in tiger products since 1993, but that doesn't seem to have deterred the underground slaughterhouse business much. There are an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 captive-bred tigers in farms which are known to kill for profit, and a survey found seventeen instances of tiger wine for sale on Chinese auction websites, one of which was a 5,000-bottle lot. Although both international and domestic trade in tiger bone is banned, some facilities openly market products containing tiger, even in other languages for tourists. They also stockpile tiger carcasses in the hope that legalized tiger trade will be reopened.

Tiger bone steeped in wine is thought to relieve human bone ailments like arthritis, although there is no scientific evidence to support such theories. Wild tigers' bones are particularly prized since they are considered more 'potent' than their domesticated peers.

In my opinion, China's government needs to come down hard on such places and make an example of them. But no, instead it's more likely that they might lift the trade ban due to internal pressures from these slaughterhouses. Such a move would be an unbelievably huge mistake. It costs 250 times as much to raise a tiger for products than it does to find one in the wild and kill it - so where do you think the legal tiger parts will come from?

Of course, we're no saints here in the U.S., either. There are an estimated 12,000 tigers owned as pets in the states - that's 3-4 times the wild population. There are an estimated 4,000 pet tigers in Texas alone. Tigers, while beautiful, make terrible pets because they are powerful, wild animals, and are often abused or killed when they get too 'big' to manage. Sixteen states don't even have regulations against owning them, and only nineteen actually ban the practice.

How anyone can justify the murder and trade of these amazing endangered animals is truly incomprehensible. The mere idea makes me nauseous. I hope that the government in China realizes how precious a gift their native tigers are, and does everything they can to protect them - before it's too late.


Anonymous said...

Poor kitties... I don't see how anyone could kill such a beautiful animal.

Eric said...

I really have to work to keep my male dander down when I find out about things like this... my gut reaction was - let them drink zookeeper wine instead! Fortunately my inner editor kicked in immediately afterwards.

My hope is that as the younger generation in China is less connected, even revolted by/to these practices they will exert more pressure from within. Before it is too late.

Anonymous said...

Have a hamburger and calm down, self-righteous zombies.

"Oh, kitty-cat cute, no kill!"
"Cow ugly - get in my belly."

Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Anonymous said...

who ever sayd the anonymous thing tht was really mean! and besides cow are cute and tigers are beautiful! wen i read this i started cryin tht is how much i love tigers. and i am still cryin. i dnt see how some could do tht to a majestic beautiful animal.