Cara Delevingne, a model and actress has sparked controversy with her latest photo shoot. She is seen holding a captive lion cub while modeling for TAG Heuer, a watch company. Cara is a self-proclaimed wild-animal lover and even sports a lion tattoo on her finger. While she may love wild animals, by taking pictures with a captive wild animal she is passively endorsing captivity and animal abuse.
Taking pictures with and interacting with captive big cat cubs is becoming a common of a tourist attraction. Even Beyoncé has pictures with a tiger cub from her trip to Thailand. However, these pictures hide an unsettling reality.
In their criticism of Beyoncé’s picture, World Animal Protection wrote, “when you look behind the scenes, vacation snaps like these support an industry that relies on animal cruelty. Many tourists unwittingly contribute to the suffering of wild animals like these. They’re simply not aware that their â€˜once in a lifetime’ photo means a lifetime of misery for that animal.”
Additionally, the Humane Society of the United States recently investigated two roadside zoos that provide customers with photo shoots of them with tiger cubs. The Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia and Tiger Safari in Oklahoma both breed tigers for their cubs which attract customers. The HSUS’s investigation found that these cubs are bred for the tourist seasons, and are then taken from their mothers so they can begin bringing in money for the zoo. According to The Dodo the “tired, overheated, thirsty, hungry, or sick cubs are expected to sit still for a parade of paying customers, and are often physically disciplined to ensure that they do so.” Once the tiger cubs get too large they are sold off, most of them to the exotic pet trade where they will continue to be mistreated.
Back to Delevingne’s photo shoot with the lion cub. Exotic animals in the entertainment industry are notoriously ill-treated. World Animal Protection wildlife expert Dr. Neil D’Cruze states, “lion cubs are not photo props. Their heath and well-being should not be compromised,” referring to the starvation, and physical and mental distress the cubs endure. D’Cruze continues, “[the lions] belong in the wild, not draped over a celebrity just to sell a designer watchâ€¦when you look behind the scenes, advertisements like these support an industry that relies on animal cruelty. Our concern is that such high profile adverts will legitimize these cruel encounters with animals.”
When well known people like Delevingne and Beyoncé are promoting this kind of behavior, others are likely to follow suit. Any civilian interaction with wild animals should be suspected of covering up animal abuse.
Below is a helpful link to bigcatrescue.org’s facts about interacting captive big cats.