Celebrities are known for their extravagant tastes and love of all things exotic, but that love for the exotic should not extend to pets.
Justin Bieber proved this yesterday when he posted a picture to his Instagram account that showed him petting a tiger at his father’s engagement party. Sure, tigers are beautiful creatures, and I can understand the appeal of snagging a picture with one, but this picture sends a disturbing message to his fans — that using wild animals as pets is OK.
To make matters worse, the tiger and other exotic animals at the party allegedly came from Canada’s Bowmanville Zoo. The owner of the Toronto zoo, Michael Hackenberger, is facing animal cruelty charges after video footage surfaced last year that appeared to show him hitting presumably the same tiger over and over with a whip.
This isn’t the first time Bieber has been criticized for his treatment of animals. In 2013, he abandoned his pet capuchin monkey in Germany because he failed to provide the necessary documentation to release his pet from quarantine.
Why is it so important that celebrities stop encouraging people to have exotic animals as pets? There is a laundry list of environmental, human safety and animal welfare risks to consider when you use a wild animal for entertainment purposes.
First of all, they are wild. No matter what “experts” say, it’s damn near impossible for the average person to provide the appropriate care and proper environment for a wild animal.
Let’s look at Bieber’s party entertainment, the Bengal tiger. A Bengal tiger can weigh anywhere between 240 to 500 pounds and grow to be 5 to 6 feet in length. And let’s not forget that it’s a carnivore who prefers to eat up to 60 pounds of meat in one meal. Are you going to hunt a deer daily to feed it?
Sure, these animals are absolutely adorable as babies, but wild animals will grow up. That cute little alligator that started off a few inches long will grow up to be 6 feet of pure muscle with a mouthful of razor-sharp teeth. Where are you going to put it now?
Even putting the obvious dangers of keeping a 500-pound, meat-loving cat in your backyard aside, wild animals can spread disease to humans and domesticated pets. According to the CDC, some of these diseases include rabies, salmonella and hepatitis B.
When celebrities endorse the use of exotic animals as pets, they are also endorsing the horrific system of exotic animal trafficking. Exotic animals are often captured from the wild and forced to live in terrible conditions before they are sold to ill-equipped owners or die in captivity. People who buy these wild animals as exotic pets rarely have the funds, facilities or knowledge to properly care for them. Animals are often abandoned, malnourished, abused or killed because the person who bought them neglected to research and properly care for the animal. Why would anyone champion the inhumane treatment of wild animals by endorsing their use as entertainers, instead of the majestic wild animals they are meant to be?
Justin, if you really want a loyal furry companion, adopt a cat or a dog from a rescue. Set an example for your fans to follow by providing a loving home for a needy, domesticated animal. Please, leave exotic animals where they belong — in the wild.