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29 June 2006

Friday, May 26, 2006

"Balance" viewpoints and the White Tiger Fraud

So on Cat's Reality TV for the Meowies blog entry, which I mentioned previously, I was engaging in an energetic debate with another of her readers, who called my views one-sided. Thus far, it has culmulated in this post by moi - and the feature debut of another personal bugbear - the White Tiger Fraud being propagated by zoos and entertainment acts worldwide. Here's the whole hog if you don't mind jumping in without reading the preceding posts, whic,h imo ,you don't really need anyway.

... Cool, you have a view, and so do I. Does that mean my view is any less "balanced' than yours? Balance is what I believe in too, but the image of a level weighing scale, with symmetric shapes and substance on both sides, which seem to constitute your idea of balance, this kind of balance cannot be in the absence of the vital caveat emptor - equality. So the views on my weighing scale is stacked heavily, just so I can find the balance in the issue.

I'll use another example - conservation, specifically, tigers. Now, I do understand the reasoning behind the necessity of captivity and breeding programs, in the name of 'education' , 'bringing wildlife to the masses', and 'species preservation aka conservation'.

One of the hippest and most popular gimmick is to tout 'Save the Endangered WHITE Tiger', in zoos all over the world, even the Singapore Zoological Gardens. Why gimmick?

Consider, the tiger genus has 8 sub-species apread over Asia, 3 of which are extinct. But whether still struggling for survival or gone the way of the dodo, the white tiger is NOT one of these sub-species.

Instead the white tiger is a mutant, it was first noted in the bengal tiger, and in the wild only 1 in 10,000 tigers are white.

There are, in total, 6,000 wild tigers, estimated, surviving in the wild now. Of these, only 2-3000 are bengal tigers.

So, where did the captive white tiger population, numbering hundreds, in zoos, circus and private collections around the world come from??

Captive tiger, or anything, breeding, like cat/dog pedigree breeding, entails selective breeding - carefully choosing specimens with the desired traits and then mating them.

The white tiger occurs because of a reccessive gene. Leaving it to nature to decide whether a cub would be white or not, is like playing the lottery, and no breeder can afford to wait on that 1/10,000th chance.

So captive-bred white tigers are bred from related tigers - father-daughter, father-granddaughter... you get the picture.

It is common knowledge that mating of related specimens, holds true for humans too, heightens the chance of genetic defects.

For every handsome white tiger being exploited to earn tourist/customer moola, there may be anything from 60 to a few hundreds failed white tigers - some are stillborn, some suffer delibilating birth defects throughout their lives - blindness, deafness, cross-eyes, hip/leg deformities etc, most don't live long and die early.

But remember, selective breeding is still a chancy thing. There's no guarantee you'll get white tiger babies every single time. So what happens to the non-white tiger babies? Abandoned, killed, abused, tortured... just like the kittens and puppies of kitten and puppy mills. Some are sold to the chinese medicine trade.

"...The white tiger population in todays zoos traces its ancestry to a single white male named mohan, collected in 1951. Successive inbreeding in captive populations for the variation has resulted in the approximately 250 white tigers in existence today. The inherent genetic problems associated with the required father/daughter/granddaughter pairings, resulting in the white tiger lineage, often manifests itself in other abnormalities including crossed eyes, bone deformations and reduced immune system functions. These factors have created a controversy among zoos, animal rights groups and those facilities who chose to breed and display the white tigers. At the root of the problem is the fact that white tigers are a popular exhibit, helping increase attendance and revenues at zoos and animal parks, while on the other hand their breeding serves no conservation purpose." (source)

(More information about white tigers and their breeding, and the very real implications for the tigers involved, as much victims as the ten cats in the Meo Mix gimmick if not more so, can be accessed here: The story of Zabu and Cameron, The White Tiger Fraud [check out especially pics 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 - this is how most white tigers tend to look like, the ones the public don't see], The White Tigers of Rewa, White Tigers, Breeders have over-exploited their appeal, This is a White Tiger. Other exotica breeding and abuse: Detailed information on tiger coloration, Hybrid and Mutant Big Cats)

Putting aside the sheer waste of life, the tiger is afterall a highly endangered species, the conduct of captive white tiger breeders and the zoos/people who support them are equally despicable.

If there is no demand, there will be no supply is the common refrain. So if people will look beyond the enchanting allure of the White Tiger Conservation movement, and ask zoos how this fits into the more vital TIGER conservation, then maybe there is hope for the true tiger conversation effort. Because, given all the facts, white tiger conservation cannot be discussed outside the context of tiger conservation per se.

In this case, say what you will of my views, I cannot find a balance where support for the zoos exist with the opposition of captive white tiger exploitation can balance each other out - so I tilt prominently towards against, and no longer have the desire to pay to visit zoos. Nat Geo and Animal Planet are good enough for me.

(But, here again, as a little sidetrack, I do not see the consumer savvy that you're so confident of in the pet issue issue. I also agree that with your statement:"natural law is you have to pay a price for something you want, nothing's free". But I find that people do not like bad news, and don't want to know the truth. They prefer to be deceived by untruths, as long as they are pleasant. People would pay, but they prefer to PAY for happy deceptions. Personally, I believe that is why the horrors of factory farming and circuses got so out of hand, and, disgustingly, is still on-going.)

Anyway, that is why I do not form firm opinions based on prima facie evidence anymore. There is always a need to probe deeper, and ask the WHAT, WHO, WHEN, WHERE, HOW, WHY.

IT behooves us to.

Frankly, no matter how balanced your view is, as long as you take a side, you've 'sided'. And the balance is tipped already.

So again, imo, the formation of a so-called balanced view must be preceded by equality of facts and the situational information, where there is no equality, there can be no balance.

And yeah, so there! =)

- Go to Pawprints: TNRM - Go to SINGAPORE UGLY / Casefile: Cruel Singapore. Hack-care Singapore. - Go to HDB bans cats - government body chronically misconceived - Go to Singapore's Love-Hate Relationship with Trap-Neuter-Release Management - Check out the purrsNswipes Adoption Guidebook - Meet our homeseekers - Go to Pawprints: TLC for cat minon requisite education - Go to SOS and see how you help some Singapore animals in need








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