Video link: http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2010/11/12/jvm.big.cat.battle.hln
November 12, 2010: Tony’s story was presented on Issues With Jane Velez-Mitchell. Guests included Carole Baskin, founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue – Tampa FL, Jane Garrison, Animal Welfare Expert, Michael Sandlin, owner of Tiger Truck Stop. Also covered was the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of tigers at Thailand’s Tiger Temple.
Please see this link for a transcript of the show: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1011/12/ijvm.01.html
HERE IS THE TRANSCRIPT:
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Coming up next, are beautiful, majestic tigers being exploited? We`re going to examine a tug-of-war over tigers. We`re going to get both sides of this story. We`re going to go dig deep because these animals can`t speak for themselves.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The sizes of these tigers, just peering out of the cage at me. I suppose they`ve got nothing, and I am their enrichment right now. Their behavior is just so sad.
How can they do this? This is a tiger farm.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was always only going to be one way to consume what tigers were there and in what condition they were in that was in the back of this place. I am frightened here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, battles over big cats are erupting around the world. Experts say the world`s tiger population has plummeted 95 percent in the last century. It`s believed, as we speak, there`s just over 3,000 tigers left on our planet. That`s why every single tiger counts.
Tonight, two furious tug-of-wars over tigers, one at a tourist attraction in Thailand, the other at a truck stop in Louisiana. Tony the Tiger, seen here in this YouTube video, lives at the tiger truck stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. He has lived there his entire life reportedly and is now approximately a decade old.
Now, critics charge that this tiger is being exploited to bring in business to the truck stop. The tiger`s owner furiously disputes that and insists that the animal is healthy and gets one-on-one attention. So you can decide for yourself.
We`re going to talk to both sides tonight. Straight out to Carol Baskin, CEO and founder of Big-Cat Rescue. Carol, why does Tony the Tiger`s situation at this truck stop upset you to the point where you`ve decided to do something about it?
CAROL BASKIN, CEO, FOUNDER OF BIG-CAT RESCUE: Well, it doesn`t just anger me. It`s the main reason people call us about tiger abuse in the United States, comes back to this truck stop. And it`s because he`s being kept in a tiny steel and concrete cell right next to the gas pumps at a truck stop that`s open 24 hours a day seven days a week. He can never escape the -- the sound of these diesel engines and the fumes from the gas pumps and from the cars and the vehicles coming through there.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, we reached out to the owner for his response about Tony the Tiger, who you`re going to see in the photo from CareToo.com. Michael Sandlin the owner said, quote, "Every American should have the right to own an animal of their choice as long as they`re able to maintain a proper habitat for the animal. His habitat is very adequate and compares in size to habitats in zoos across the country".
And then he asks, "Do you really think that Louisiana officials would issue permits if in fact the animal is in danger." Well, we have Michael Sandlin on the phone.
Personally, I don`t think the fact that the permit has been issued has anything to do with it because what she`s talking about is the emotional state of this animal as opposed to simply whether it has food and shelter. Michael, what are you saying in defense of keeping this animal in this enclosure?
MICHAEL SANDLIN, TONY THE TIGER`S OWNER (via telephone): Well, first of all, you know, Tony is a beautiful, healthy, young 10 -- 10-year-old male tiger. I`ve had Tony since he was a cub. And no one knows better on -- on how to take care of Tony than I do.
And basically, you know, Tony is not isolated. He has one-on-one attention, and customers come in and visit him all day long.
So, you know, the tiger is not isolated, and as far as his habitat, it`s a 3,200-square-foot habitat with a grassy area. It has air conditioning, a shelter where he can have privacy and a pool for swimming. And you know, Tony is just being very well taken care of. All of the government agencies come in. Actually, weekly and do an inspection. And everything is --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me ask you this question. What about the charges that you`re making a buck off this tiger by promoting your truck stop -- is this your truck stop? It`s -- it`s called the Tiger Truck Stop. And people are saying you`re basically luring in customers using a tiger exhibit and therefore using this animal in order to make money. What`s your response to that?
SANDLIN: Well, I mean, this is a business. It is a truck stop. And you know, unlike Carol Baskin and Big-Cat Rescue, who`s heading this -- this whole charade of lies and half-truths against me in order to take the tiger away from me --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me -- let me -- I just want to say this.
SANDLIN: I -- I don`t -- I don`t --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I -- I was a little concerned about your statement which I read where you accuse the people who are a critic -- critics of how Tony the Tiger is being kept of being domestic terrorists. Now, I have a problem with that because I think that insults the people who died on 9/11 who were killed by real terrorist. I want to bring in Jane Garrison for a second, an animal welfare expert.
What do you make of people who respond to criticisms of the condition of an animal by saying those people are domestic terrorists?
JANE GARRISON, ANIMAL WELFARE EXPERT: Oh, it`s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard, Jane. He`s saying that people are terrorists, yet he is an animal abuser. He`s the first thing that he said was that customers come to the truck stop. So you can see that the only thing that`s important to him is actually using this tiger to draw people to his business.
That tiger in that video is exhibiting what`s called stereotypic behavior. That tiger is pacing back and forth. And when a caged animal does that, it`s a sign that the animal is frustrated, they are bored.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. I want to give Michael an opportunity to respond to that. Michael?
SANDLIN: Well, that`s all a lie. The only reason the tiger is pacing back and forth is because these people, these animal rights activists, have come to the truck stop and thrown objects into the cage and --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know what --
GARRISON: That is not true. That is not true.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Carol Baskin, what`s your response to that? The response that you`ve thrown rocks at the tiger.
BASKIN: People who love animals do not throw rocks at them. He is crafty and he`s (INAUDIBLE). He has a sign that says --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. More after the break. After the break, we have some more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- has been a breeding machine for 10 years straight. (INAUDIBLE) As I look in through the bars, she`s got two day old cubs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Turning now to a totally different tiger tug-of-war on the other side of the world in Thailand. A heartbreaking sight; a mama tiger and her baby tiger cubs held captive behind bars for the purposes of entertaining tourists, hundreds of them.
How can we be part of the solution? By not being part of the problem; it`s all about consumer demand.
Jane Garrison, you have been studying this tiger temple. What have you learned?
GARRISON: Oh, Jane, this is horrible. In western Thailand, Tiger Temple is run by Buddhist monks. What happens is people go to this facility to get their pictures taken with the tigers. What they see are about ten tigers in this canyon that are clearly drugged and people are getting their pictures taken with them, but what they don`t see is what`s happening behind the scenes.
Behind the scenes, there`s almost 100 tigers kept in tiny barren cages with not adequate food, no veterinary care, and what happens from there is that these tigers are part of this illegal trade in tiger parts. So it is a horrific scene for these tigers.
And what tourists don`t realize is that when they go there for their five minutes of so-called entertainment, they`re actually supporting a lifetime of torture for these tigers.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Numerous animal protection groups around the world have expressed alarm over the treatment of the tigers at the Tiger Temple in Thailand. Check this out.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just can`t help but notice how quiet they are; virtually like they`re posing. You know, tigers are quiet in the heat but this was very odd. He just laid his head in the water bowl.
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VELEZ-MITCHELL: Take a look at that. Take a look at that. Did you just see that? The tiger`s head was in the water bowl like this. That`s not how tigers are normally.
Let`s see it one more time. Look at that. Tigers normally don`t just sit around like that and let people pet them while they`re -- look at this tiger. Ok.
People are saying, critics are saying these tigers appear to be drugged and out of it. They are charging the temple with abuse claiming that they may even be involved in illegal tiger trade. The Thailand Department of National Parks told ISSUES they carried out a thorough investigation and found no evidence of involvement in illicit trade or maltreatment against tigers.
Jane Garrison, obviously they didn`t see the tiger who could barely lift his head out of the water bowl.
GARRISON: Exactly. And did they look at the cages that these tigers are kept in 24 hours a day? Only ten tigers are taken to the canyon and then also, a report that was done by an animal protection group shows that 75 tigers have disappeared from that facility, and they keep renaming the tigers the same name.
See for Life, which is an organization that`s been following it, they`re encouraging people to write to the government of Thailand and tell them to do something about this, to close this facility, to send these tigers to a better place, to a sanctuary. It would take people five minutes to write a letter to the government of Thailand and to help these tigers and to pass the word to never, ever go to Tiger Temple in Thailand.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ultimately, our call to action, these are all consumer issues. You, the consumer, need to decide how you want to spend your money when it comes to animals because they cannot speak for themselves.
Thank you, fabulous panel, for joining me tonight.
Nancy Grace up next. She has a producer on the ground in North Carolina. She`s going to bring you the very latest breaking developments in the Zahra Baker case.
You are watching ISSUES on HLN.