A Hollywood animal trainer, who has provided animals for a variety of productions including the movie Life Of Pi, has allegedly been caught on camera whipping a Siberian tiger.
The video, obtained by PETA, allegedly shows the director of Bowmanville Zoological Park, Michael Hackenberger, striking the young animal with whip over and over as it practices stunts, leaping from one large stool to another.
In the clip, one trainer holds the tiger on a leash as it rolls over onto its back as the lashes come down, a move which, according to PETA, is a response of fear in big cats.
After the training session, Hackenberger appeared in an on-camera interview, in which he discusses the best places to whip the tiger, noting that PETA wouldn’t be too happy if the footage of the session was ever released.
“I like hitting him in the face. And the paws – which get the paws off,” he said. “And the beauty of the paws being on the rock, when you hit him, it’s like a vice. It stings more.
“But, here’s the problem at the end of the day. If we’d been running a videotape the whole time you were here, and you did a 45-second montage of the times I struck this animal, PETA would burn this place to the ground.”
In his own video response to PETA’s allegations, Hackenberger said that the organization was lying and misrepresenting the animal’s reactions to the whip, adding that he only ever hit the tiger twice.
“I do not strike this animal. I do not strike him. I strike the ground beside him,” he said.
At one point in the video, he even approached the tiger, Uno, who is laying at the feet of the same trainer who appeared in the video, and begins to lash the whip in the air, which Uno does not respond to – a reaction Hackenberger said would be impossible if the tiger had actually been struck in the video.
Hackenberger also clarified that when the tiger rose from the ground, it was a response to the trainer’s verbal command, which can be heard in the video, rather than the whipping.
Still, PETA is sticking with its original allegations. In a new statement, intended as a response to Hackenberger’s defense video, the company accused the trainer of being the liar.
“Michael Hackenberger was caught on camera repeatedly and viciously striking a young tiger who lay cowering on his back out of fear and discussing the most effective ways to hit animals, stating quite plainly, ‘I like hitting him in the face’ – yet Hackenberger lies even about having said this. Wild animals like Uno perform stressful and confusing tricks because they’re terrified that they’ll be beaten if they don’t. There is no excuse for beating an animal, any more than there is for hitting a child.”