From wildlife trafficking to the dark underbelly of America’s exotic pet trade and beyond, endangered species protection attorney Carney Anne Nasser takes you behind the scenes for a glimpse at how big cat experts from the legal, zoological, sanctuary, advocacy, and media communities are coming together to save tigers from extinction and exploitation.
Life of Pi. Gladiator. Water for Elephants. These are all movies that used big cats or an elephant and they each involved horrible abuse behind the scenes. On episode 21 of Tiger Talk, I talk to Lewis Crary, the Assistant Manager of Animals in Films and Television at PETA. Lewis and I used to work together in the Captive Animal Law Enforcement Department at the PETA Foundation many years ago and we reconnection to have a discussion about how American Humane Association's (AHA) "No Animals Were Harmed" designation is utterly pointless--starting with the shocking reality that the AHA is actually funded by the Screen Actor's Guild. We get into some specific examples of movies you've all heard of and the horrible abuse of big cats, elephants, and great apes used in those movies. We come to the conclusion that there is no humane way to use exotic animals in entertainment and the industry standard going forward needs to be CGI.
For Tiger Talk's 20th episode, I bring you a conversation with Jessica Blome, the lead attorney on a precedent-setting Endangered Species Act citizen suit that resulted in a court order for the removal of tigers and lions from a horrific roadside zoo in Iowa where animals were being starved and denied veterinary care while being forced to live in feces encrusted cages. The "Cricket Hollow Zoo Case" paved the way for numerous other endangered species act citizen suits that have resulted in the rescue of literally DOZENS of tigers. More ESA citizen suits are pending as we speak -- including against Tim Stark and Jeff Lowe, who you saw featured in Tiger King. So, Jessica and I will answer what an ESA citizen suit is, how it works, and what other legal tools animal lawyers like her are using to put these bad actors out of business for good.
On this episode of Tiger Talk, I’m sharing a conversation I had on the Rocket Podcast (“Accelerated Geek Conversation”) with co-hosts Brianna Wu, Christina Warren, and Simone de Rochefort. We talked about Tiger King, themes of misogyny and sexism in the docuseries and the resultant backlash against Carol Baskin, and close it out with how Brianna and I connected through our participation in Porsche auto racing. It’s fun, informative, and fast paced!
Rachel Nuwer is an award-winning science journalist who makes prolific contributions to sources like the New York Times, Nat Geo, Audubon, and more. I first met Rachel while she was doing research for an excellent investigative piece called The Strange and Dangerous World of America’s Big Cat People (available on longreads.com), and subsequent chats leading up to her New York Times article, Why Tiger King is Not Blackfish for Cats, and her podcast with Outside Magazine journalist, Peter Frick-Wright called Cat People. Rachel’s book, Poached: Inside the Dark World of Wildlife Trafficking, is yet another of her contributions to science journalism and she is part of the growing groundswell of reputable journalists who are calling out Tiger King for the lack of apparent integrity with which it was made.
I recently had the humbling privilege of doing a podcast episode with Cat Jacoby and John Pulley from Fierce Freedom, one of the nonprofits that is on the frontlines of combatting human trafficking in the United States. I believe that the animal protection movement has a lot of progress to make in forging synergies with other social justice movements, and on this podcast episode that I did with Fierce Freedom, we talk about the lessons from Tiger King that can be applied equally to fighting wildlife trafficking and human trafficking. I’ve learned so much about how insidious this human rights violation is right here in our backyards and I hope that, after listening to this special episode of Tiger Talk, you’ll head over to fiercefreedom.org to subscribe to their podcast, learn more, and support the important work that people like Cat and John are doing to end sex and labor slavery in the United States—particularly right now as human trafficking is on the rise during the Covid- 19 pandemic. As Martin Luther King said, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Today we are joined by Brittany Peet, Deputy General Counsel of Captive Animal Law Enforcement at the PETA Foundation as well as Jay Pratte, who is our first repeat guest on Tiger Talk. You’ll remember Brittany from Tiger King, and you’ll remember Jay as the independent expert we talked to in Episode 9 of Tiger Talk. Jay is one of the leading experts in big cat and bear welfare, husbandry, and behavior, and provided key expert opinions in litigation that has resulted in landmark decisions that will change the legal landscape for all tigers in roadside zoos in the United States. Naturally, I had to start by asking Brittany about her thoughts on Tiger King — but we quickly get into the good news about other animal abusers that experts like Brittany and Jay are helping put out of business.
Ed Stewart is the heroic director and cofounder of the 2200-acre GFAS-accredited Performing Animal Welfare Society in San Andreas, California. PAWS is home to elephants who have been rescued from circuses, tigers who have been rescued from abusive owners, a number of other animals — and a special bear named Ben. Ed and I bonded in 2012 during a cross-country FedEx flight with Ben, a 600-pound bear PETA had rescued from a roadside zoo in North Carolina. My conversation with Ed takes us through the stranger-than-fiction life of an exotic animal advocate and expert — and I hear for the first time that the makers of Tiger King interviewed Ed, but decided not to include his expert commentary in the reality show. As always, our talk is real and raw.
Professor Delcianna Winders is one of the foremost experts on the federal Animal Welfare Act in the United States. Prior to joining Lewis & Clark Law School where she is the director of the animal law and litigation clinic, she was the Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement at the PETA Foundation. Delci takes us on a legal journey through the Animal Welfare Act, using Tiger King Joe Exotic as case study of all of the ways the US Department of Agriculture is complicit in animal suffering.
Alex Tello is the producer and director of the Furthest from the Wild series, which takes viewers behind the scenes of exotic animal rescues. He follows their stories and their rehabilitation, and through that work has come to the conclusion that captivity just doesn’t work. He shares his opinions about Tiger King, and some of the ways in which it failed.
Noelle Almrud, Director of Black Beauty Ranch and the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance, gives us insights into how her network of sanctuaries is being affected by Covid-19 and why there may be more backyard tigers in Texas than there are left in the wild. How’d we get here and what can we do to end the cycle of breed and dump?
Mike Webber is an award-winning motion picture producer/director who has produced numerous films for studios like 20th Century Fox and Lion’s Gate — and he has some very strong feelings about Tiger King. As Webber’s documentary films have swept film festivals and received the highest praise from film critics and someone who has been studying and documenting America’s big cat trade for over a decade, he is uniquely situated to critique the ethics (or lack thereof) in the making of Tiger King. Mike Webber’s award-winning 2010 feature-length documentary, The Elephant in the Living Room (available for streaming on Amazon, Vudu, and Apple) iTunes) takes viewers on a journey deep inside the controversial American subculture of raising big cats, venomous snakes, and other dangerous animals as pets. It is THE documentary to watch about private ownership of exotic animals in America and the film became the topic of an NBC 20/20 special feature. Webber was the key note speaker at the 2019 Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance conference because of his expertise and commitment to ending the exotic pet trade in America. This is a candid conversation about ethics in film and the worst ways in which Tiger King misled viewers. This is an unedited and unscripted conversation and neither of us pulled any punches.
Tim Harrison is the foremost expert on dangerous wild animal encounters in the United States. He will take you behind the scenes of numerous dangerous animal incidents and rescues — tigers in Harlem, Gabon vipers in Ohio, pythons in Pennsylvania. We dive deep into the world of exotic animal auctions and the cause and effect relationship between reckless shows like Steve Irwin’s reality shows that promoted hands on contact with exotic animals and increased public interest in purchasing them as pets. If you want to learn more, check out the award-winning documentary, The Elephant in the Living Room, on Amazon, iTunes, or Vudu.
Jay Pratte, leading independent expert for big cat and bear welfare, sat down with me to talk about the recent news that a tiger at the Bronx Zoo has COVID-19. We dive into what this means for the zoological and sanctuary communities, and answer questions about the difference and relationship between ACCREDITED zoos and ACCREDITED sanctuaries. They play different, but important, roles and Jay is going to get all of your questions answered!
Tanya Smith (founder of the GFAS-accredited Turpentine Creek sanctuary in Arkansas) and her colleague, Emily McCormack, take us behind the scenes of one of the biggest big cat rescues in the history of the US. They help us understand where these cats have been, how they are traded like baseball cards, and the critical condition many are in if they are lucky enough to end up in a reputable sanctuary. Tanya and Emily don’t pull any punches and neither do I.
Today’s podcast is from my Facebook live video where I answered all of the additional Tiger King questions I’ve received since my live webinar on Monday, March 30th. Check it out and tweet me @carney__anne with additional questions or comments!
I sat down with International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Campaigns Director, Carson Barylak, and Wildlife Programs Officer Meredith Whitney to talk about what the life is really like for a tiger used in the exotic pet and entertainment industry. It’s information you need to have in order to make informed decisions about which facilities you choose to visit, and these two big cat experts explain what we can all do to help end the abuse.
National Geographic environmental investigative journalist, Sharon Guynup, and I sat down on March 30 to discuss our critique of Tiger King and answer questions about roadside zoos and trafficking of tigers in America. Those who care about big cats can visit bigcatalliance.org or sanctuaryfederation.org to find a reputable, accredited sanctuary or learn more about the standards they all must adhere to. We invite you to join us in urging federal legislators to pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act to help end the abuse of tigers for entertainment in the United States: https://awionline.org/compassion-index#/309
Kate Dylewsky, Senior Policy Advisor for the Animal Welfare Institute, discusses pending federal legislation that could be the nail in the coffin for roadside zoos in the United States, recent legislative victories, and the important role that localities and states play in bringing an end to America’s tiger crisis.
Tammy Thies is the founder of GFAS accredited, award-winning, sanctuary called the Wildcat Sanctuary. Her sanctuary is not open to the public, and she shares her expert insights into key differences between roadside zoos and sanctuaries and how the Coronavirus will impact America’s tiger crisis.
In April 2019, Joe Exotic, one of the most notorious tiger traffickers/breeders/dealers in the country was convicted of numerous federal crimes, including wildlife trafficking and murder for hire. A federal judge sentenced him to 22 years in prison on January 22, 2020. Federal court is not open to the public, but I was there and this is what happened.