Justin Bieber Slapped With Warning Over Big-Cat Photo Ops

Repercussions Continue for Hollywood Animal Trainer Facing Cruelty Charges Over PETA Video of Him Repeatedly Whipping a Tiger

For Immediate Release:
July 21, 2016

Moira Colley 202-483-7382

Toronto – Toronto Animal Services has sent pop star Justin Bieber an official warning over the illegal possession of big cats and other prohibited animals backstage at his Toronto concert in May and at his father’s Toronto engagement party in April—a violation of the city’s municipal code, which prohibits keeping animals such as tigers, lions, lemurs, and camels in the Ontario capital.

“No reputable animal-care facility lends out exotic animals for private parties and backstage Instagram photos,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. “PETA hopes the authorities’ warning to Justin Bieber will remind people everywhere that lions and tigers are sensitive living animals, not selfie props.”

In addition to Bieber, warnings were also issued to the Bowmanville Zoo, which provided the big cats, and its associate Alex Haditaghi. The facility’s owner and former director, disgraced Hollywood animal trainer Michael Hackenberger, is currently facing five counts of cruelty-to-animals charges stemming from a PETA video that showed him viciously whipping a young tiger during a “training” session, even after the cat lay on his back in a position of submission.

After the video’s release, CBS canceled plans to use Hackenberger—who previously provided animals for Life of Pi and The Interview, among others—for the TV series Zoo. The Bowmanville Zoo has since announced that it will be forced to close at the end of the season because of a sharp decline in attendance. But trouble continues to brew for the facility.

Earlier this week, PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—released eyewitness reports that a person wearing what appears to be a Bowmanville Zoo uniform repeatedly shot at a giraffe with a BB gun after the zoo had closed for the day. PETA has turned over its evidence to the Ontario SPCA, who has since launched an investigation.

For more information, please visit PETA.org.

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.


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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