The Baskins have worked for years to outlaw the pay-to-play industry, which takes cubs prematurely from their mothers to be passed around to paying customers. It leaves thousands of tigers languishing in captivity once they’re too big to cuddle.
The couple sat for interviews for the documentary, thinking the filmmakers were going to focus on their cause.
Anyone with a Netflix account knows that’s not what happened.
These days, she said she fears leaving home because of the death threats that flooded in after the series aired.
She has seen drones flying over her home. Baskin said a doorbell camera has captured as many as 30 people a day lingering at the sanctuary gates, which have been closed since March 16 because of the coronavirus outbreak. It closed four days before the series aired.
But what troubles the Baskins the most, they told the Times, is how Tiger King breezed over the suffering of the captive tiger trade.
A #FreeJoeExotic hashtag has gone viral as a result. But animal welfare organizations have tried for years to raise the alarm that Maldonado-Passage was one of the country’s most egregious animal abusers. A 2011 undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States showed tigers, bears, primates and other animals living in barren cages with no stimulation; animals suffering prolonged deaths due to a lack of veterinary care; tigers punched, dragged and whipped during training; and children holding tigers that were too mature to handle safely.
“Things are a lot worse than what was portrayed in the Netflix series,” said Debbie Leahy, senior strategist of captive wildlife at the Humane Society of the United States.
In their first interview since the Netflix series aired, the Big Cat Rescue founders say the series skimmed over animal suffering to glamorize animal abusers.