Sheriff Matt Lutz Settles an Old Score by Staging a Great Safari Hunt That Claims the Lives of Eighteen Tigers and Seventeen Lions in Zanesville
"I've been out there and walked past the pens and had those cats become aggressive. I knew if those animals were running loose, they were out of control."
-- Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz
The cold-blooded and senseless massacre of forty-nine large carnivores, most of them rare and endangered, by officers of the Muskingum County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) in Zanesville, Ohio, on October 18th and 19th will, in due time, be regarded as one of the most egregious crimes than man ever has committed against animals. (See photos above and below of some of the victims.)
Once the shooting finally stopped, no less than eighteen Bengal tigers, seventeen lions, six black bears, two brown bears, three cougars, two gray wolves, and a baboon lay dead. Ambushed initially in the twilight and later in the darkness by deputies armed with night vision glasses, assault rifles, and automatic pistols, the defenseless animals never had a chance. (See chart below tallying up the horrific slaughter.)
Thanks once again to the capitalist media's sworn duty to always serve as the propagandists for the authorities, no one in the general public ever will know exactly what transpired on that fatal evening which dragged into the early hours of the following day. As best the story can be pieced together from sketchy press reports, sixty-two-year-old Terry Thompson, owner of the Muskingum County Animal Farm (MCAF), turned the forty-nine animals loose earlier that afternoon before shooting himself to death.
Four deputies armed with assault rifles initially were dispatched to 270 Kopchak Road in Falls Township where they promptly gunned down twenty-five of the animals right off the bat. The great safari hunt continued throughout the night as the MCSO, determined that no animal be left alive, was joined by the Licking County Sheriff's Office, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, the Ohio Division of Wildlife, the Muskingum County Emergency Management Agency, and several nearby fire brigades. It is by no means certain, but it appears that just about all the killing was done by the MCSO.
The often repeated justification for this massacre is that the animals posed an imminent threat to the public. That rationale has been bandied about as if it were manna from heaven despite the fact that no credible evidence has been produced that any of them either came within so much as a country mile of any citizen or, for that matter, even made it off of Thompson's seventy-three acre spread.
One big cat reportedly did come close to escaping but it was hit by a motorist and then promptly dispatched to the devil by the MCSO. The reckless manner in which most motorists operate their vehicles in this country precludes the notion that any of the animals would have lasted for very long even if they had made it off the grounds. Furthermore, with Thompson dead there apparently were not any other individuals on the property and thus in harm's way at the time of the safari hunt.
That assessment of the situation is vouched for not only by the fact that all of the animals later were buried on the farm but also because it is highly improbable that the lazy and cheap MCSO would have gone to the trouble of transporting their bodies back to the farm for burial if they had been killed elsewhere. (See photo below of some of the animals lined up outside the barn.)
The quick burials also precluded necropsies being performed on the vanquished. Such an inquiry would have revealed not only how many times each victim was shot but also at what range and the type of slug used.
Such an inquiry just as importantly would have provided some indication as to the physical and, perhaps, mental state of the victims. That is particularly important in light of unconfirmed allegations that they lived in filth and were malnourished.
It additionally would have been interesting to know if any of them had been either defanged or declawed. In the end, lawmen, like physicians and veterinarians, cover up the evidence of their despicable crimes underneath six feet of earth.
Even if the animals had strayed it would not have been the end of the world in that the private zoo is located in a rural area with neighboring houses some distance away and spread out over an extended area. The largest nearby city is Columbus and it is fifty-five miles in the distance.
Moreover, only the tigers and lions posed any real threat to humans. In many parts of the country residents have learned to live in peace with bears, wolves, and cougars. Baboons and other primates normally are not considered to present much of a danger to humans although Charla Nash of Connecticut did lose her eyesight, hands, and face back in 2009 as the result of an altercation with a chimp named Travis. (See New York Post, October 28, 2011, "'Chimp' Gal: I'm Beautiful.")
If any of the animals belatedly did exhibit any aggression it was because they were being systematically stalked and mercilessly exterminated one by one by the MCSO. That is a fact that even loudmouthed, bloodthirsty Sheriff Matt Lutz candidly admits.
"These animals were on the move and showing aggressive behavior," he neatly turned the truth on its head in an interview with ABC-TV on October 19th. (See "Zanesville Animal Massacre Included Eighteen Rare Bengal Tigers.") "There were some very close calls" and at times it was "almost hand-to-hand" combat with the animals. (See photo further down the page of him putting on a show for the benefit of his apologists in the media.)
According to Lutz and all those who think like him, man has an unqualified right to slaughter animals with impunity but they on the other hand are not even entitled to the right of self-defense. (See Cat Defender post of August 24, 2011 entitled "Self-Defense Is Against the Law in Australia after a Woman Who Attacked a Cat Gets Away with Her Crime Whereas Her Victim Is Trapped and Executed.")
Lutz furthermore maintains that the lions and bears were charging at horses kept at the preserve. If that indeed were the case, the MCSO should have rounded them up along with all farm and companion animals and temporarily secured them in the cages vacated by the carnivores. Instead, Lutz has used that as another excuse in order to justify the killing spree.
Although it is unclear exactly how long Thompson and his estranged wife, Vivian, had operated MCAF, Lutz and other public officials had made dozens of trips to the farm since 2004 in order to investigate, inter alia, alleged animal cruelty, unsanitary conditions, and insecure cages and fences. In hindsight it thus seems clear that Lutz had developed a grudge against the Bengals and lions and was just lying in wait like a viper in the grass in order to strike when the right opportunity presented itself.
"I've been out there and walked past the pens and had those cats become aggressive," he confessed to the Zanesville Times Recorder on October 23rd. (See "Sheriff Matt Lutz Reacts to Rumors, the Spotlight and Those Second-Guessing the Choice He Was Forced to Make.") "I knew if those animals were running loose, they were out of control."
That thought provoking admission raises the possibility that Lutz may have been threatening and menacing either the tigers and lions or Thompson in some manner during those visits. Another possibility is that the cats sensed the hatred and fear that emanated from his person and instinctively knew that he was out to get them. Animals are not nearly as stupid as some individuals believe them to be.
The butcher of Zanesville additionally makes no bones about wanting the animals dead. "Public safety was my number one concern," Lutz proclaimed to The Columbus Dispatch on October 19th. (See "Sheriff: Fifty-Six Exotic Animals Escaped from Farm Near Zanesville; Forty-Nine Killed by Authorities.") "I gave the order that if the animals looked like they were going to get out, they were going down."
C'est-à-dire, the thought of saving their lives never entered into his malignant, cat-hating gourd. "When I gave that order, I wasn't thinking about animals," he told the Zanesville Times Recorder in the article cited supra. "I was thinking about the public and their safety."
An assertion such as that is more laughable than anything else, especially coming as it does from someone in dog-eat-dog America where scarcely a soul can be found who gives so much as a rat's ass about the welfare of his fellow citizens. That is even more so the case with public officials who divide their time between being welfare bums, liars, and thieves on the one hand and stooging for the money men on the other hand.
If any public official really cared about people and wanted to make this society just a little bit more livable he or she would, at the minimum, make the highways safe for pedestrians, animals, bicyclists, and law-abiding motorists, lock up all violent offenders, protect the environment and the animals, promote the establishment of a fair and equitable economic system that actually worked, provide affordable health and veterinary care to all individuals and animals, and get the money out of both politics and the media. To pass off the cold-blooded murder of these defenseless animals as a crude substitute for public service not only rings hollow but exposes Lutz and his supporters to be not only outrageous liars but delusional as well.
In typically American fashion, Lutz is especially proud of his diabolical crimes. "If I had to do it over, I'd do the same thing," he pledged to the Zanesville Times Recorder in the article cited supra.
That brings to mind what comedian Stephen Colbert said of Bush II at the White House Correspondents' Dinner back in 2005. "When the president decides something on Monday he still believes it on Wednesday -- no matter what happened on Tuesday," he declared to those assembled.
The task for both individuals and societies alike is to learn from their mistakes and to strive to do better in the future, not to wallow in lawlessness and prejudice. As Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel once observed, "History leads the wise man and drags the fool."
Much more importantly, the behavior and words of this latter-day Bungalow Bill display an appalling indifference to all morality and the sacredness of animal life. If John Lennon were alive today, he instantly would recognize Lutz as a carbon copy of Richard A. Cooke III whom he immortalized with these choice words:
"Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill,
He went out tiger hunting with his elephant and gun.
In case of accidents he always took his mom.
He's the all-American bullet-headed Saxon mother's son...
Deep in the jungle where the mighty tiger lies
Bill and his elephants were taken by surprise.
So Captain Marvel zapped him right between the eyes...
The children asked him if to kill was not a sin.
"Not when he looked so fierce," his mommy butted in.
"If looks could kill it would have been us instead of him."
As was the case with White and his mom, all it took was one cross-eyed look from the cats coupled with the right opportunity to unleash all the pent-up hatred and savagery that lay hidden in Lutz's black heart. After all, it is not often that a lawman is given the opportunity to engage in what he has been trained to do with impunity.
After having conveniently exonerated both himself and his subalterns Lutz turned around and, once again in typically American fashion, placed all the blame for the massacre on Thompson. "It didn't have to happen, but that was a decision Mr. Thompson made," Lutz swore with a straight face to the Zanesville Times Recorder in the article cited supra. "There was no reason for these animals to have to be killed or my deputies put in the positions they were put in. But that was his decision, and I had to do what I had to do to protect my people and this community."
Such silliness always has had a substantial following in the land of the dollar bill but it really became en vogue during the reign of Americans' beloved four-flusher, Ronald Wilson Reagan. In brief, it maintains that the poor and unsuccessful are degenerates whereas the rich and successful, no matter how predatory and criminal, are the salt of the earth and therefore can do no wrong.
It is precisely that sort of thinking that has led to trillion-dollar bailouts of Wall Street crooks, the automakers, and others while simultaneously abandoning the masses to freeze to death in the streets and to die from a lack of affordable health care. The one constant running throughout all of these policies is that the malignant and corrupt-as-hell establishment is never to blame in any way, shape, form, or fashion for any of society's ills; au contraire, it is all the fault of individuals.
Thompson, quite obviously, was a troubled man. The former Vietnam veteran, who once owned a Harley Davidson franchise, had just gotten out of the slammer on September 30th after having served a year for possession of a machine gun and short firearms with filed-off serial numbers. In fact, when the mass murderers of Ruby Ridge and Waco, the notorious Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), raided his farm in June of 2008 they seized more than one-hundred weapons.
Adding insult to injury, his wife recently had left him and he reportedly owed $68,000 in federal and state taxes. It does not take any genius to realize that the residual effects of Vietnam, the ATF, jail, money woes, marital difficulties, a trigger-happy sheriff, and exotic animals all formed a volatile mix that was apt to explode at any given time.
"I think people don't fully understand the situation," Thompson told the Zanesville Times Recorder in 2008 according to its October 21st edition. (See "Exotic Animal Tragedy: Search Ends Near Zanesville, Questions Remain.") "People are quick to scrutinize me when they really have no idea of what I'm about or why I have chosen to have these animals." (See photo of him on the right below.)
Considering the conflicting opinions of him that have emerged since his death, that does indeed appear to have been the case. He was "a guy who kind of kept to himself, was always willing to push the envelope a little bit," is how Lutz characterized him to ABC-TV in the article cited supra.
As far as his neighbor Fred Polk was concerned, Thompson simply loved animals. "He liked animals more than he did people," he testified to the Philadelphia Inquirer on October 21st. (See "A Sad Acceptance on Lost Animals.") "He really did."
As far as Kenny Hetrick, who keeps tigers at a preserve outside of Toledo, is concerned, Thompson simply bit off more than he could chew. "He really had more there than what he could do," he told the Daily Mail on October 22nd. (See "Did Wild Animal Owner 'Bait' Himself Before Committing Suicide?") "I don't know what his deal was, but he was in over his head."
It is not clear where Thompson acquired the animals. Apparently some of them were given to him by owners who had purchased them as infants but no longer wanted to care for them once they reached adulthood.
He also bought and sold them at so-called exotic animal auctions. It is even conceivable that he may have been a breeder and possibly even an importer in violation of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
All of that buggers the question of how he was able to remain afloat financially. After all, it can cost as much as $10,00 per annum in order to feed and medicate some large animals.
In addition to whatever he raked in through trafficking in wild animals, he also occasionally hired himself out as a wildlife expert. For example, he once took a trio of lion cubs to New York City for a fashion shoot with German supermodel Heidi Klum. In 2008, he served as an animal handler for a zoologist who was appearing on the Rachel Ray Show.
He also relied, in part, on dead cows that he got from neighbor Kate Riley in order to feed his animals. MCAF therefore looks to have been operated on a shoestring.
"I don't let my animals run loose," Thompson once told the Zanesville Times Recorder according to the October 21st article cited supra. "I'm not going to put anyone else, including myself and my wife, in danger or put my animals at risk."
Unfortunately, that is precisely what he turned around and did on October 18th and that calls into question his alleged love of them. It is one thing for him to have taken his own life but to have condemned these beautiful animals to die in a hail of bullets was totally unconscionable. Anyone about to check out of this vale of tears and who truly loved animals would have made provisions for their continued care instead of initialing their death warrants.
In the final analysis perhaps neighbor Angie McElfresh came the closest to the truth when she suggested that Thompson released the animals in order to get back at his detractors. It "could have been a 'fuck you' to everyone around him," she theorized to London's Independent on October 21st. (See "Scandal of the Private Zoo That Ended in Slaughter.")
As egregious as Thompson's conduct was, it nevertheless pales in comparison with Lutz's barbarism and crocodile tears. "None of us were happy about what we had to do out there," he vowed to the Zanesville Times Recorder in the October 23rd article cited supra. "None of us."
If by any chance that sounds familiar it is because that is exactly what Dori Stone received from the police and politicians in Lebanon, Ohio, a couple of months earlier after a still unidentified police officer executed her cat, Haze. (See Cat Defender post of September 22, 2011 entitled "Neanderthaloid Politicians in Lebanon, Ohio, Wholeheartedly Sanction the Illegal and Cold-Blooded Murder of Haze by a Trigger-Happy Cop.")
In addition to gunning down cats, both big and small ones alike, Ohioans have, inter alia, evicted domestic ones from the statehouse in Columbus, threatened to shoot them with Tasers, and killed them with crossbows. (See Cat Defender posts of October 20, 2005, April 8, 2008, and August 2, 2007 entitled, respectively, "After Ridding Ohio Statehouse of Rats, Cats Now Find Themselves Facing Eviction," "Ohio Politician Proposes Adding Cats to the Growing List of Pigs, Other Animals, and Humans Killed by Tasers," and "Ohio Cat Shot in the Leg with an Arrow Is Forced to Endure a Long-Drawn-Out and Excruciating Death.")
It likewise never must be forgotten that although the Vietnam War spawned demonstrations on college campuses all across the nation, it was only at Kent State University in Kent that members of the Ohio National Guard trained their rifles on students and shot four of them to death and wounded nine others on May 4, 1970. It very well may be a new millennium but when it comes to respecting the rights of animals Ohioans of the twenty-first century are every bit as backward and barbaric as their predecessors of the last century were when it came to respecting human rights and free expression.
Representatives of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium belatedly showed up on the scene armed with either four or five tranquilizer guns. As far as it has been reported, only one attempt was made to tranquilize any of the animals and that half-hearted effort was undertaken by veterinarian Barb Wolfe who shot a tiger. Instead of allowing the sedative time to work its magic, the MSCO promptly gunned it down when it attempted to flee.
"What a tragedy!" Wolfe later exclaimed to the Philadelphia Inquirer in the October 21st article cited supra. "We knew that...there were so many dangerous animals at this place that eventually something bad would happen, but I don't think anybody really knew it would be this bad."
Included in Wolfe's entourage was veteran zookeeper Jack Hanna who wasted no time in lending his unqualified support to the slaughter. "Human life has to come first but that's what we have to look out for," he declared to ABC-TV in the article cited supra. He then gratuitously added, "We have to take care of our animal life."
He even went so far as to defend MCSO's decision not to tranquilize the animals. "You can't tranquilize at night. It upsets them. It's like if you get popped with a shot," he declared to WKYC-TV of Cleveland on October 19th. (See "Jack Hanna: Human Life Comes First in Search for Escaped Animals.") "They settle in, hunker down, go to sleep. We can't find them in the dark. What had to be done had to be done."
That is pure baloney. The MCSO, Columbus Zoo, and their affiliated services had more than enough lighting capacity at their disposal in order to transform the darkest night into the brightest day. Plus, they were equipped with night vision glasses.
Accordingly, locating the animals, whether they were on the move or lying sedated on the ground, would not have posed an insurmountable obstacle. Nevertheless, Hanna would have the world to believe that although there was sufficient lighting in order to gun down the animals there was neither enough to tranquilize them nor to locate them once they were on the ground. Anyone who finds that contorted logic compelling is welcome to it.
Even if they had gotten too close for comfort before those manning the tranquilizer guns were in position, traditional means of controlling crowds and animals could have been resorted to in order to have frightened them away. These include, inter alia, the firing of warning shots in the air, the use of tear gas, bean bags, and water cannons, and non-lethal explosives which currently are being used to unjustly prevent migrating sea lions from eating salmon and steelhead on the Columbia and Willamette rivers in Oregon.
Once the animals had been tranquilized, nets, cages, and shackles could have been rushed in to have secured them. The humane recapture of these animals would have required patience, time, money, and some risk of human life but it would have been far preferable to the orgy of senseless killing that ensued. Besides, officers of the law are supposed to occasionally put their lives on the line in order to save other lives, but chicken-hearted, maniacal killers do not have any business carrying guns and wearing badges.
It is not surprising that Hanna supported the extirpation in light of the fact that he has been exploiting and abusing animals all of his life. In addition to serving as head zookeeper at the Columbus Zoo for more than twenty years, he over the years has lent his support to Sea World's flagrant abuse of orcas, defended Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey's Circus, and lauded whale abusers. (See photo of the big phony directly above on the right.)
Lions, chimpanzees, foxes, and cougars that he has schlepped all across the country in order to make public appearances have retaliated by biting bystanders. Even an organization as thoroughly hypocritical as PETA has labeled him as a "professional wildlife pimp." (See PETA.org, March 1, 2010, "You Don't Know Jack (Hanna).")
Not surprisingly, he is one of the capitalist media's darlings and appeared, inter alia, on "Good Morning America" and "Late Night with David Letterman" in order to defend the massacre. Calling upon an unrepentant zookeeper to speak up for wild animals is tantamount to the media asking David Duke of the Ku Klux Klan to put in a good word for black-Americans.
As an added incentive, Lutz may have wanted to prevent area residents from joining in the fun and therefore instructed his deputies to promptly liquidate all of the animals. Even with the expeditiousness with which the mass killing was carried out, some residents were caught trying to make off with the carcasses. (See photo below of a dead lion.)
As difficult as it is to believe, lions are raised for slaughter on a farm outside of Chicago and their flesh is then butchered and distributed from coast to coast for retail sale by Czimer's Game and Seafood of the Windy City. Most astonishing of all, this odious practice is perfectly legal and not regulated by either the United States Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), or CITES. (See Living on Earth, May 20, 2011, "Lion Meat, Anyone?")
It therefore is likely that the scavengers were intent upon selling not only the flesh of the lions and tigers but also their other valuable parts which can fetch a fortune from the purveyors of traditional Chinese medicines. Reports that some residents even went so far as to enter the compound and attempt to unearth the corpses have been denied by Lutz.
Since Lutz, Hanna, Wolfe, Thompson's neighbors, and seemingly everyone else in Ohio had known about the myriad of problems affecting MCAF in general and Thompson in particular for considerable time it simply is mind-boggling that contingency plans were not put in place long ago that would have safely remedied just the type of catastrophe that occurred on October 18th. There are only two conceivable explanations for that glaring oversight: either nobody cared what happened to the animals or Lutz's massacre was premeditated. As things eventually turned out, he was able to get rid of both Thompson and his animals in one fell swoop on October 18th.
"There were plenty of warning signs in this case, but they were ignored by those who had the authority to prevent this tragedy," Lynn Culver of the Feline Conservation Federation (FCF) of Myrtle Beach wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 20th. (See "Feline Conservation Federation Outraged over Ohio Man' Release of Lions, Pumas, and Tigers.")
Even more damning, the FCF was rebuffed when it contacted Lutz and other unidentified wildlife officials in the area in a futile effort to get the animals moved out of MCAF. That is in spite of the fact that FCC even offered to relocate them free of charge to one of its facilities.
FCF member Tim Stark also refutes Polk's assertion that Thompson was an animal lover. "Terry was a hoarder," he is quoted as alleging in the Chronicle. "His animals were emaciated, and the place reeked from dead and rotting carcasses."
Others, such as Patty Finch of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) in Washington, an accrediting body, flatly contradict Culver's assertion that there always is plenty of space available at the inn for large cats. "If you want to place a big cat, I would tell you that every reputable sanctuary is full and more than full," she averred to The Press of Atlantic City on October 23rd. (See "Ohio Case Highlights Issues Around Keeping Exotic Pets.")
Obviously someone is either lying or GFAS does not consider FCF to be a reputable sanctuary. About all that can be said for certain is that the Wild Animal Orphanage in San Antonio closed its doors last year due to having too many animals to care for and not enough moola. Meanwhile, East Coast Exotic Animal Rescue in Fairfield, Pennsylvania, has been forced to scale back its operation due to financial constraints.
The glaring failure of any major animal rights group to either condemn the killings or to defend the animals' inalienable right to live demonstrated once again that the mainstream animal rights movement is every bit as phony and corrupt as the environmental movement. (See The Independent, May 21, 2010, "Polluted for Profit: Johann Hari on the Real Climategate.")
As per usual, PETA played it nice and safe by continuing to suck up to those in power without having the guts to condemn the slaughter. "For years, PETA has called upon Ohio officials to ban the private ownership of exotic and wild animals, but those calls have gone unheeded," the organization groused on its web site in an undated post. (See "Tragedy in Ohio -- Forty-Eight Wild Animals Shot and Killed. Urge Officials to Ban Private Ownership Now.")
The organization's Jennifer O'Connor offered up more of the same gibberish in an op-ed piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer on October 26th. (See "Massacre Supports a Ban on Exotic 'Pets'.")
The best that the inveterate moneygrubbers at the Humane Society of the United States could come up with was to parrot PETA. "These animals should not be kept in people's backyards, their basements, or bedrooms," the organization's Wayne Pacelle told the Philadelphia Inquirer on October 21st. (See "Pennsylvania Is Not Ohio on Exotic Pet Laws.")
Choosing instead to selectively ignore the plight of thousands of animals unjustly incarcerated at zoos and captive breeding facilities as well as those nakedly exploited by circuses and the entertainment industry, Pacelle saved all of his venom for private zoos. "There's an epidemic of private ownership of dangerous exotic animals in the United States," he complained to The Independent in the October 21st article cited supra. "There are thousands of exotic animal menageries across the nation."
Even Will Travers, head of Born Free USA, came out wholeheartedly in support of the mass extermination. "It's a tragedy for these particular animals, for no fault of their own they've been shot, and I can see how difficult that decision was for the police," he opined to the Philadelphia Inquirer in the October 21st article cited supra.
A statement such as that exposes him as either a fool, a liar, or someone who does not care one way or the other. After all, by his own admission, Lutz did not agonize a single second over his shoot to kill order; on the contrary, his mind had been made up a long time ago.
Travers' subaltern, Adam Roberts, was a good deal more forthcoming. "What we saw this week should never, ever happen again. It is our job to stop this madness, protect animals, and to keep the public safe," he wrote October 21st on the organization's web site. (See "Born Free USA Ready to Work with Ohio Governor, Offers Model Legislation on Exotic Pet Ownership Following Today's Executive Order.") "Wild animals belong in the wild. This was a recipe for disaster -- and a disaster it was. These animals were innocent victims and we must move forward to protect others."
Those sentiments mirror the ones that he expressed to Salon on January 5, 2008 although his organization does not appear to be making much headway, except in isolated cases, of either protecting big cats in the wild or securing the release of the thousands unjustly incarcerated. (See "Tigers Don't Belong in Zoos.")
The World Wildlife Fund joined FCF, PETA, HSUS, and Born Free USA in crying its eyes out for the MCSO and the public in addition to calling for a ban on individuals owning tigers. "The tragedy in Ohio was a public safety nightmare and highlights the need for a ban on privately owned tigers in this country," the organization's Leigh Henry stated October 20th on its web site. (See "WWF Calls for Ban on Pet Tigers.") "We have a responsibility to close these loopholes, protect the public and save one of the most magnificent species on the planet."
She also drew a causal connection between the practice of keeping captive tigers and poaching in the wild. "In addition to safety issues, captive tiger populations can have a direct effect on demand for illegal tiger parts around the world, resulting in increased poaching," she added.
By that obscure reference she no doubt has places like the Xiongshen Tiger and Bear Mountain Village in Guilin, China, in mind. Owned and operated by multimillionaire Zhou Weisen, the wildlife park incarcerates fifteen-hundred, mostly Amur, tigers.
The animals are bred for their bones which are used in the making of tiger wine that retails for between £185 and £600 per bottle and is alleged to cure rheumatism, arthritis, and to prolong life. Since it is technically illegal to kill tigers in China, Weisen simply allows them to either starve to death or to die from unattended ailments and wounds. (See photo above of one emaciated bag of bones.)
"It is inevitable that wild tiger parts will get drawn into a market created by farmed tiger parts," Steve Broad of TRAFFIC, a wildlife monitoring network, echoed Henry's concerns in an interview with the Daily Mail on February 20, 2010. (See "Exposed: Dark Secrets of the Farm Where Tigers' Bodies Are Plundered to Make £185 Wine.") "These business people are creating a market that could be catastrophic for the wild tiger population."
Being an unscrupulous, cutthroat capitalist, Weisen is not about to limit his trafficking in tigers to their valuable bones. The animals' eyeballs are used to treat epilepsy, their bile to stop convulsions, their whiskers to assuage toothaches, and their joy sticks to make aphrodisiacs.
Broad certainly talks a good game of conservation but when confronted with the awful massacre in Zanesville neither he nor his organization had anything worthwhile to say. "Four years ago, following the publication of (our report) "Paper Tigers," we alerted United States officials to the dangers posed through unregulated ownership of tigers," the organization's Crawford Allan bellyached October 25th on its web site. (See "Tigers and Lions on the Loose in Ohio: An Inevitable Tragedy That Should Have Been Avoided.") "The authorities explained that a lack of resources meant they could not implement the report's recommendations at a national level. We hope they are reviewing that decision now."
Other than calling attention to the connection between the naked exploitation of captive tigers and the poaching of their few remaining cousins in the wild, the WWF has not offered up any concrete plan to save either of them. Equally disturbing, its omission of any reference to leopards, lions, wolves, bears, and primates can only be construed as an indication that it does not feel that they are worth saving. Even more outrageously, the WWF kills countless wild animals each year by relentlessly hounding them down over and over again so that it can affix satellite tracking devices around their necks and steal tissue samples from them while they are sedated.
Rounding out the roll call of shame, Michael "Ph.D." Hutchins (he insists upon being identified as a savant) of The Wildlife Society, the USFWS, the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Resources Defense Council, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the National Wildlife Federation, and the American Humane Society have not posted any notices on their web sites either supporting or condemning the massacre. Apparently, none of them have been able to figure out any financial advantage to be derived in taking a stand one way or the other on this issue.
David Cantor of Responsible Policies for Animals in Glenside, Pennsylvania, broke from the pack in order to defend the animals. "Undesirable as it is, the recent Ohio 'exotic animal' slaughter does not indicate the need for stricter laws, but for unalienable equal autonomy, ecology, and dignity rights of all animals," he wrote October 26th in a letter to the editors of the Philadelphia Inquirer (See "Accept Basic Rights for Animals.") "The human-supremacist endeavor of recent millennia must end. Long-term well-being will include all -- or it will exclude 'us'."
A considerably more forceful and poignant condemnation of the massacre came from Glen Hurowitz of the Center for International Policy. "Lutz's ignorant savagery and Hanna's defense of it is the reflexive attitude of too many police and public officials in this country, and not just when it comes to exotic animals," he wrote October 19th in the Huffington Post. (See "Jack Hanna Defends Wildlife Slaughter.") "Police too often respond to one complaint with a hail of bullets -- even when it's native wildlife like black bears, wolves or mountain lions."
A recent example of such patently criminal and barbaric behavior on the part of the law enforcement community occurred on Christmas Day of 2007 when the San Francisco Police shot and killed an Amur tigress named Tatiana after she had been assaulted by a trio of doped and boozed up young men. (See Cat Defender post of January 28, 2008 entitled "Hopped Up on Vodka and Pot, Trio Taunted Tatiana Prior to Attacks That Led to Her Being Killed by Police.")
A few months later on April 14, 2008 Chicago Police pumped between eighteen and sixty bullets into a two-year-old forever nameless male cougar who had the temerity to stray into the city's North Side. (See Cat Defender post of May 5, 2008 entitled "Chicago's Rambo-Style Cops Corner and Execute a Cougar to the Delight of the Hoi Polloi and Capitalist Media.")
In both instances the police had plenty of time in order to have tranquilized the animals but they instead consciously chose to snuff out their lives. That is exactly what occurred in Zanesville but only on a significantly larger scale.
"Even when it comes to exotics, the reality is that this kind of slaughter is unnecessary -- a little patience and the occasional tranquilizer gun can usually get animals back together," Hurowitz continued. "Lethal measures should only be used as a last resort -- and especially in cases like this, where police are dealing with highly endangered animals like tigers (3,000 left in the wild) and lions (23,000). We need to do everything we can to keep these animals alive and reintroduce them into the wild where possible to bolster wild populations."
Wild animals, especially big cats, belong in protected habitats that have been wiped clean of capitalists, poachers, and phony-baloney wildlife biologists with their snares, camera traps, and radio collars. Sadly, that goal remains as elusive as ever.
"If you are not going to set aside habitat where there are no humans you cannot have tigers," noted Indian conservationist Valmik Thapar told The Independent on November 2, 2007. (See "The Face of a Doomed Species.")
Even by saying that much he knew full well that the deck is stacked against tigers and other species. "But all the (Indian) government cares about now is call centers, shopping malls, and apartments. That leaves the tiger situation in a miserable mess," he told The Independent a few weeks earlier on October 16, 2007. (See "Poaching and Population Threaten India's Tigers.") "So why save the tigers? Because saving the tigers means saving every insect in the forest, and the forest itself, and that's important not to just India, but to the world."
That is a fair enough statement but the tragic reality is that few governmental officials and conservationists can be trusted to do the right thing by tigers and other animals. That by default places the burden of saving not only endangered species but all animals as well squarely on the shoulders of private citizens. Some of them will in turn take their sacred obligations to heart while others, such as Weisen and Thompson, never will amount to anything other than abusers and exploiters.
There is not any easy solution to this dilemma but more and more it is beginning to look like that the choice is going to come down to either captive wild animals or none at all. Should that ever come to pass, it truly will be a shame because the animals are the one thing in all of creation that is noble, beautiful, and worth saving.
Instead of divesting them of their land, food sources, and lives, man should be cherishing and protecting them with all of his might. No price is too high to pay if doing so will both save their lives and ensure their freedom and dignity.
In order for that to occur, man for once must place the animals and Mother Earth first. In that respect, it is nothing short of revolting that no major animal rights group is willing to do even that much.
As long as man and his needs remain paramount, the animals do not stand a chance of surviving. In his poem, "Two Tramps in Mud Time," Robert Frost demonstrated considerable insight into the breadth of this dilemma when he wrote:
"...Out of the wood two hulking tramps
(From sleeping God knows where last night
But not long since the lumber camps).
They thought all chopping was theirs of right.
Men of the woods and lumberjacks,
They judged me by their appropriate tool.
Except as a fellow handed an ax
They had no way of knowing a fool.
Nothing on either side was said.
They knew they had but to stay their stay
And all their logic would fill my head:
As I had no right to play
With what was another man's work for gain.
My right might be love but theirs was need.
And when the two exist in twain
Theirs was the better right -- agreed.
But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation.
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one.
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes."
For whatever reason, Thompson spared three leopards, a pair of monkeys, and a brown bear by allowing them to remain in their cages. (See photo directly above of a spotted leopard that survived.)
They immediately were relocated to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium although Vivian is advocating for their eventual return to MCAF. "We are happy to report they all seem to be doing well," Patti Peters of the zoo told the Daily Mail in the October 22nd article cited supra.
The fifty-sixth animal, a macaque suffering from Herpes B, never has been accounted for and is presumed to have been eaten by one of the cats.
The future of MCAF remains in doubt and its huge tax liability remains unsatisfied. Lutz meanwhile has graduated from slaughtering rare and endangered species to going after Polk and others who recorded his handiwork for posterity and then sold the photographs to the media.
That, however, is small potatoes as far as he is concerned. Most of his time nowadays is devoted instead to basking in the glory of the carnage that he inflicted upon these forty-nine beautiful animals. "I have to give a huge thank you to this community who supported us in so many ways," he averred to the Zanesville Times Recorder in the October 23rd article cited supra. "I just can't tell you how that makes me feel when there's that support for you and your office. It's good."
Photos: Daily Mail (dead tigers, chart, and Thompson), Fred Polk (slain animals and dead lion), Associated Press (carcasses near barn and spotted leopard), Zanesville Times Recorder (Lutz), Phil Konstantin of Wikipedia (Hanna), and Sinopix and Daily Mail (tiger in Guilin).