cover photo for tiger article

Animal Cruelty And Thailand’s Tiger King

How Buddhist Hypocrisy Exploits Downtrodden Animals

Stillborn tiger cub foetuses found in Tiger Temple freezers (Photo CNN)

Buddhism offers us a surface level commitment of animal compassion.

According to doctrine, a Buddhist must treat all animals kindly and in equal measure.

A Buddhist must show loving kindness to all beings. Or at least this is the case as it would seem should you simply cast your lens narrow-eyed, and indifferently accept the stoic nirvana of Buddhism at face value.

It’s a surface level commitment. A commitment without depth, because once you dip your toe beyond the euphoric flowerbed of animal loving compassion. The compassion which Buddhists outwardly signal. You are plunged into an uncomfortably icy hypocrisy which justifies animal torture and cruelty befit of the abused victims of China’s dog meat festival.

According to the Buddhists, a soul may be reborn into either a human body or animal body.

Buddhists must show loving-kindness to all beings, karma indicates that being reborn as an animal implies past misdeeds. Furthermore according to this doctrine, animals cannot commit good deeds. Therefore an animal cannot improve their souls through good deeds. So they are then left to being reborn an animal soul until the karma wares out.

Seems a tad unfair.

Because animals can’t engage in conscious acts of self improvement they can’t improve their karmic status. Their souls must continue to be reborn as animals until their bad karma is exhausted. 

This conundrum yields a textbook catch-22 and so arrives us at a point of conflict and a fundamental hypocrisy of this faith.

Buddhists cannot harm any living being, but in equal measure, profess their superiority and descent towards the animal kingdom. This morality is manifest across the numerous religious temples of Thailand and surrounding South East Asian states. In these temples are sick, injured and deformed animals. Housed within any given temple walls there could lay Malaysian sun bears, slow loris, all species of monkey, tigers plus every other unique and beautiful animal which exist in the area.

Life In The Temple

Temples are used as dumping grounds for unwanted animals. The monks who occupy these various temples are left in conundrum.

They are met with an excess supply of sick, injured and able animals against a scarcity supply of food, caregiving labour and most notably, the mercy of slaughter. The Buddhist must take in and care for the animal but under no circumstances – even when the animal is terminal – can they put down a living being.

It is consequence of which, the Tiger Temple manifest.

Animals are suffering in cages and fed too little – often only some grains of rice leftover – and not allowed any freedom of movement.

A cruelty of torture that only a false sense of compassion could allow.

There are stories of Sun Bears stuck in cages for fear of injuring the people ‘taking care of them’. Only to die a slow and horrible death as they are underfed, caged and under stimulated.

We have here a systematic case of animal abuse all across Thailand in the many Buddhist temples that scatter the land, from rural to urban.

It’s systematic because the ideology that governs these temples is an animal centric catch 22 that simultaneously cannot harm a living being but also not afford to feed one.

What makes this this calamity of caregiving even worse is the recently exposed underground business that some of the larger temples generate through the exploitation of these helpless animals. 

Abused Sun Bear finds a home at WFFT. (Photo by pri.org)

Drugs And The Tiger Temple

Since 1999, Thai Buddhists monks of Kanchanaburi’s Tiger Temple have ‘cared’ for the magnificently sly and fierce beasts. At their commercial height, they had 147 Tigers ‘under management’.

This ‘stoic’ house of monks ended up generating serious business. In 2015 up to 250,000 people visited the temple to take ‘adventurous’, Instagram friendly snaps.

This tended to feature a bug-eyed, stoned tiger spread across the dirt floor – sometimes chained at the neck – surrounded by one or two absent-minded, sweaty tourists arm in arm, hunchbacked and celebrating the wonder of nature and magnificence of tigers.

You know that photo I am talking about. A wide eyed ear to ear smile, tank top, maybe a thumbs up – not much between the ears. That kind of photo doesn’t cost much for them. Only 600Baht – about 15 Euros.

Now imagine 250,000 visitors. The Buddhists are racketeering the abuse of the very animals they are sworn to protect. And profiting enormously.

Only Religion Can Serve Up Such Hypocrisy.

If only the subjects of these photos knew the horror and abuse these tigers were subject too.

There must be an unnatural sense permanent to these temples. It is not natural for humans to co-habit space with fiercely territorial tigers. One must ask themselves these questions when in such an unusual environment.

Tigers Turned Junkies

To get a tiger to the point of submission where she will simply lie down and allow scores of humans to touch and move around her can only be explained through the prism of torture and drugs.

These show tigers are doped daily to slow and suppress energy and impulse. This, in addition to behavioural modification and abuse from a cub pushes the tiger to the point of inept service.

The tigers are reproducing in the temple and raised in the temple, they are generational victims to being moulded by their hideous monk oppressors.

Since this temple is such a secure and lucrative stream of income for the community, efficiency is brought into the operation. Certain, ‘preferential’ tigers who exhibit more reliable behaviour and photogenic qualities are doped higher doses and more often, and less submissive tigers are condemned to cages and forced breeding. Stillborn cubs (as featured in the title image) are either buried or reused for tourist trinkets and the drug infected genes of the bloodline for these captive animals result in hellishly high percentage stillbirths and deformity.

You must ask yourself – how unnatural does this feel?

Hypocrisy In Care

By tainting beyond repair the health and bloodline of tigers from within the temple the Buddhists have committed no chance of a return to the wild for these tigers.

The Buddhists have committed the animals to servitude and abuse for the sole benefit of themselves, directly contradicting their oath to not harm any living being.

These temples are legal and overlooked because they operate under the ruse of conservation. They are seen by the majority as a place of rescue for lost and forgotten animals – when really, they are the cruel, final destination for downtrodden souls.

The Aftermath Of The Raid

Stillborn tiger cub carcasses found in the aftermath of tiger temple raid. (Photo scmp.com)

Found amongst the moral wreckage of the tiger temple was a surprising list of horror: More than 1000 amulets stuffed with tiger parts, 30 cubs preserved in jars, 40 cubs stored in the freezer, a laboratory suggesting that the monks were using tiger parts to make wines and medicines, the skin meat, bones and claws of tigers all prized luxury goods and finally, much evidence to suggest breeding programs for illegal animal trade.

The temple has since been shut down but there is clear evidence suggesting that the tigers have simply moved into the care of different ethically deprived handlers and much like the drug trade, this is simply the removal of a cartel. As quickly as a vacuum appears someone manages to swoop in and fill it.

South East Asia is a hotbed of animal cruelty and abuse, I mention this in my article about breaking the elephant spirit and can only simply add that it’s a symptom of desperation and the economy.

The local people are not privilege to the economic opportunity we in the west consider an absolute baseline, and it is under these circumstances that moral and ethical behaviour can be set to the side at the expense of the wildlife and animals. Because the higher value remains true, and that unfortunately is – more money in the wallet means more food in the wok.

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