Factory Farmed Tigers
Written by Danny Penman
Wednesday, 14 March 2007
By Danny Penman
Guilin , South East China
Siberian tiger stares longingly at me through the bars of his cage. His
two beautiful and graceful companions pace back and forth across their
tiny compound. They look crushingly bored. The most exciting thing they
can do is paw mournfully at the dirty pools of rainwater slowly
spreading across the floor of their cage.
Although the Xiongsen tiger park near Guilin in south east China
appears to be a depressingly typical third world zoo, it actually hides
a far more sinister secret: it's a factory farm breeding tigers for the
table and to be made into wine.
Visitors to the park can dine on strips of stir-fried tiger with ginger
and Chinese vegetables. Also on the menu are tiger soup and a spicy red
curry made with tenderised strips of the big cat. 'Discerning' visitors
can wash it all down with a glass or two of vintage wine made from the
bones of Siberian tigers.
A waitress at the farm's restaurant tells me proudly: "The tiger meat
is produced here. It's our business. When Government officials come
here we kill a tiger for them so they have fresh meat. Other visitors
are given meat from tigers killed in fights. We now have 140 tigers in
"We also sell lion meat, bear's paw, crocodile and snake. The bears'
paw has to be ordered in advance as it takes a long time to cook."
The waitress clearly did not care that she was selling meat and wine
from endangered species. She was not in the slightest bit worried that
selling them is also against Chinese and international law and helps to
fuel the poaching that is driving tigers to extinction.
Tigers and other endangered species are now being reared on an
industrial scale in China. The Daily Mail discovered three factory
farms breeding tigers in China. The Guilin farm alone has 1300 tigers,
including the incredibly rare and elusive Siberian sub-species. It also
rears and slaughters Bengal, South China and White tigers. Over 300
African lions and 400 Asiatic black bears were also being reared for
food and traditional Chinese medicines.
Chinese bureaucrats have blessed the keeping of all these rare and
endangered species, even though it is against their own laws. It is
clear that the authorities signed up to international treaties
protecting tigers and have no intention of honouring them. Instead,
they claim that farms like the one at Guilin are a vital part of the
country's conservation efforts and will one day release these
endangered creatures back into the wild.
A walk around the Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Mountain Village, as the farm
is officially known, reveals this excuse to be little better than a
lie. These animals could never survive in the wild as they have none of
the skills essential for survival. These poor creatures were snatched
from their mothers when they were three months old and have spent their
lives in tiny barren cages. They cannot hunt nor have they learnt the
art of hiding from human poachers. They would be dead within days of
being released into the wild.
The lions and tigers are reared in battery-style units to maximise
production. Each shed (and I saw at least 100) houses between three and
five tigers in a space no larger than a typical family living room. In
relative terms they have about as much space as a battery hen. They
will spend four or five years in the sheds and will almost certainly
never be allowed outside to exercise.
Tigers are naturally solitary creatures that roam over dozens of square
miles so its hardly surprising that life in the cages drives them
insane. I saw numerous examples of endlessly repeating behaviours known
as stereotypies, a sure sign of madness. Tigers paced back and forth
across their cages for hours on end. Each time they would take three
steps forward, turn around and take three steps back. Others hurled
themselves helplessly at the bars of their prison cells whilst others
stared into space with a glazed depressed look in their eyes.
Madness, stress and over-crowding often drives the creatures to attack
each other. Tigers are such powerful beasts that at least one of the
tigers is generally killed in such a clash. Officially it is only these
that are eaten or turned into wine. And if there should be a shortage
of tigers killed in such fights? Well, it's safe to assume that a
bullet to a tiger's head will solve that problem.
Although the battery tiger units were thoroughly miserable and
depressing places an even more disturbing sight lay around the corner:
the "Kindergarden for all Beasts". This contained around 30 tiger cubs,
many as young as three months old. They are kept here until they are
old enough to be transferred to the battery units.
Many of the youngsters were desperate to escape and kept leaping at the
fencing of their cages. The younger ones simply wanted to play like
kittens. The older cubs had already learnt that life held no future for
them and were showing signs of extreme stress and madness.
Even more horrific was the 'live killing exhibition'. Here live animals
were 'hunted' and torn to pieces by tigers whilst onlookers gawped and
cheered. I watched in horror as a young cow was stalked and caught by a
tiger. Screams and cries filled the air as the tiger ripped and tore
into the young animal's body.
A wild tiger would despatch its prey within moments but these tigers'
natural killing skills had been blunted by years of living in a battery
cage. The tiger was driven to kill but simply didn't know how. All it
could manage to do was tear and bite at the cow's body in a pathetic
looking frenzy. Eventually the keepers broke up the contest and
dispatched the cow, much to the disappointment of the crowd.
Virtually all of the tigers from the Guilin farm end up at a winery 100
miles to the north. Here their carcasses are dumped in huge vats of
rice wine and left to rot for up to nine years. The Chinese believe
that the tiger's strength passes into the wine as its body decomposes.
They also believe that it is a powerful medicine that wards off
arthritis, strengthens bones and acts as a general tonic. Smelling like
a mixture of methylated spirits, antiseptic and congealed meat, it is
difficult to believe that anyone would willingly drink such a brew and
yet people are happy to pay up to £100 a pint for it.
The Guilin farm also has a winery and acts as a distribution centre for
wine across China. I managed to gain the confidence of the
distribution manager and she showed me and a Chinese tourist around. It
was predictably depressing.
A small dingy office acted as the nerve centre of the warehouse. On the
wall were charts showing that day's deliveries of tiger wine across
China. Six crates were despatched to Wuhan and another to Tianjing. Six
crates of 'powdered bear' were sent to Shanghai. Numerous other cities
and countless deliveries were also listed.
We were then led into the warehouse where I was hit with the disgusting
and potent aroma of tiger wine. I was led past countless crates
containing the foul smelling brew. In the corner of the warehouse was a
huge brown earthenware vat. It must have held at least 50 gallons and
its contents were probably worth around £12,000.
"We have three ages of wine," said the manager. "Three, six or nine-years' old."
"It helps with arthritis and strengthens old people's bones," she added.
To ram home her sales pitch the manager slid aside the lid of the
earthenware vat to reveal a reddish-brown liquid with an overpowering
smell of meths. A piece of string was pulled out of the vat. Attached
to the end was a tiger's rib cage. Small slivers of dark red flesh
could still be seen clinging to the bone, even though it had probably
been in the vat for at least three years.
The manager then filled up an old plastic water bottle with a pint of
wine and handed it to my fellow tourist. He paid £30 for it.
Whatever westerners think of tiger wine, the Chinese regard it as a
potent drink with almost magical qualities. In the past, a Chinese
doctor may have prescribed a small amount of the wine for a short
period of time. But in recent years big companies have moved into the
market and industrialised all parts of the industry. Now the wine
is becoming an essential drink for China's corrupt bureaucrats and the
nation's nouveau riche.
Whilst it seems abhorrent to farm tigers is it really any different to
producing chicken, pork and beef? Conservationists certainly think so.
"It's not only cruel and repugnant to farm tigers," says Grace
Gabriel, spokeswoman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. "It
is also driving them to extinction in the wild. Tiger farming is
stimulating demand for meat and wine and this will inevitably lead to
more poaching. It costs £5,000 to raise a tiger from a cub to
maturity in one of these farms while it costs no more than £20 in
India to poach one. On the market a dead tiger can fetch
£20,000. With such a huge profit margin it is inevitable
that more people will poach wild tigers if demand increases.
"There are only a few thousand tigers left in the wild and the
last thing they need is increased demand for their body parts."
If present trends continue they could be extinct in the wild within a
decade. Three sub-species of tiger have already vanished. Chinese
tigers are down to a pitiful 20 animals in the wild and are
"functionally extinct". There are only about 450 Siberian tigers left
in Russia's Far East. The remaining 3-4,000 are sparsely scattered
across India, Nepal and south east Asia.
As tigers become rarer in the wild their "street value" increases,
which in turn encourages even more poaching. Tigers have already become
extinct in India's most famous reserve at Sariska. Numbers have plunged
in several other reserves too. Most of these tigers will have been sold
to traders in China. The Chinese authorities do virtually nothing to
clamp down on this illegal trade and many corrupt bureaucrats and
police earn substantial sums from it.
And demand is continuing to increase as ever more bizarre uses for
tigers are promoted or created. Tiger whiskers are used to 'cure'
laziness and protect against bullets. Their brains when mixed with oil
and rubbed on the skin are promoted as a cure for acne. Penises are
used as aphrodisiacs whilst hearts apparently impart courage, cunning
Tiger farmers also have their eyes on the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
They hope that a huge influx of tourists will lead to increased demand
for tiger wine. And the Chinese Government is doing its bit to stoke
demand. It recently ordered TV presenters in Tibet to wear tiger skins
whilst reading the news.
Although it is currently illegal to trade internationally in such tiger
products as wine, the Chinese are lobbying hard to get the law relaxed.
This June, the Chinese Government is expected to press the Convention
on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to allow the
trade in 'medicines' such as wine produced from farmed tigers. If
agreed it will lead to a massive increase in tiger farming and tens of
thousands of these noble beasts will spend their lives in battery cages.
If the Chinese get their way then it will almost certainly drive the
tigers over the cliff into extinction. It is almost too late to save
the tigers but not quite.
Source: News Monster