Victory! CBS Drops Plans to Hire Abusive Tiger Trainer

Published by Alisa Mullins.

The CBS TV show Zoo has canceled its plans to hire notorious animal trainer Michael Hackenberger after seeing PETA’s video exposing the Bowmanville Zoo owner’s training methods.

After hearing that CBS was in talks to hire Hackenberger, we alerted the show’s executive producers to video footage captured by a PETA eyewitness showing Hackenberger whipping a cowering tiger named Uno up to 20 times in a row, which so terrified Uno that he involuntarily emptied his anal sacs, a sign of fear and stress in big cats. PETA submitted a request for investigation to the Ontario SPCA, and Hackenberger is still under investigation by that agency.

In the video, Hackenberger describes using a whip as a “disincentive,” saying that punishment is the only way to force animals to perform. He also brags about striking animals in ways designed to inflict the maximum amount of pain: “I like hitting him in the face. And the paws … the beauty of the paws being on the rock, when you hit him, it’s like a vise. … It stings more.” A Bowmanville Zoo administrator acknowledges Hackenberger’s violent training methods, stating, “You throw them down on the ground so they know who’s boss. That’s basically Michael’s way of working all animals.”

Noting that such abusive training methods are the norm, PETA also urged Zoo executive producers to refrain from using any live animals in the show and instead rely solely on sophisticated computer-generated imagery: “Again and again, undercover investigations and whistleblower reports have revealed that physical and psychological abuse of wild animals used for film and television is standard practice,” we wrote in a letter to CBS. “Big cats, elephants, primates, and other animals are routinely beaten, shocked, whipped, and deprived of food during training …. With the wonderful computer-imaging technology available to filmmakers today, it’s no longer necessary to use live animals for film or television.”

What You Can Do

Stay away from any production in which animals are forced to perform and instead support only performances involving talented human actors.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind