rusted bars, a skeletal tiger lies panting on the filthy concrete floor of his
cage, covered in painful sores and weeping wounds. His once-powerful body is now
so emaciated it is little more than a pitiful pile of fur and bones. In row
after row of foul, cramped cages, 1,500 other tigers also lie alone, crippled
and dying of starvation. One is hunched up against the side of her cage, her neck
grotesquely deformed. Another, blinded in one eye, lies motionless. Others are
kept locked in small, concrete enclosures, spending their days in perpetual
darkness. They occasionally jump up on their hind legs to peer through the
narrow slit windows, desperately seeking a rare glimpse of daylight.
finally comes, the dead tigers are taken to a massive subterranean factory. Here, they are stripped of their valuable skin and flesh and have their bones join
the hundreds of tiger skeletons boiling in huge wine vats. This is the Xiongshen
Tiger and Bear Mountain Village - the largest collection of endangered tigers
in the world.
Throughout China, it is estimated that at least
6,000 tigers - twice the amount existing in the wild - are suffering and dying
in horrific "tiger farms" like Xiongshen. These vile businesses, run
by a handful of wealthy and powerful men, breed and slaughter thousands of
tigers in concentration camp-like conditions - all so that their owners can
make millions by selling tiger parts under legal permit from China's State
China's legal tiger trade is in violation of CITES
agreements and has single-handedly undermined millions of dollars in
Ever since the first tiger farms were established in the
late 1980s, demand for tiger products has greatly increased, and, with it,
tiger poaching. It is still cheaper to kill a wild tiger than to raise a
captive one, so tiger farms frequently abuse the permit system and launder
illegally-poached tigers as captive specimens for greater profits. The result
is that, every single day, at least one more wild tiger is killed to fuel
China's demand for parts. If this continues, the tiger will be extinct in the
wild in just 20 years.
But the tiger farm owners don't care. In fact, many of
them are literally banking on extinction, accumulating stockpiles of carcasses
as a bloody "investment" which
they hope will increase in value once the tiger is gone forever.
This evil industry has its roots in a single,
outdated law. Under China's 1989 Law on the Protection of Wildlife, wildlife is merely a resource for human use.
The law encourages the breeding of tigers, bears, and other wildlife for
commercial purposes, set up the frequently-abused permit system for selling
wildlife parts, and affords captive animals no legal protection from abuse and
neglect. Fortunately, attitudes in China are quickly changing - and the law is
about to follow.
As the cries for change become stronger, Chinese lawmakers are
finally revising the Law on the Protection of Wildlife. This single law has the
potential to shut down the tiger farms, end China's wildlife trade, and turn
the nation into a global leader in wildlife conservation.
The National People's
Congress Standing Committee, China's legislative body, plans on considering a new
draft of the law by the end of this year. So far, things appear to be moving in
the right direction. Insiders claim that the current draft discourages wildlife
trade and promotes animal welfare, something which would have been
unprecedented just 5 years ago.
is no room for complacency. The current regulator for wildlife
breeding is largely pro-trade, and the multimillion dollar, politically-connected tiger farming industry
has a strong lobby force. They will be doing everything in their power to
ensure that their evil business continues - and that the tiger goes extinct.
The good news is that China values its international reputation above all else, meaning that a massive
global outcry will encourage lawmakers to do the right thing and put an end to the
tiger trade once and for all. If they do, conservationists say that it would
be "the single biggest contribution to securing a future for wild
The decision that China makes within the next year could
mean the difference between extinction and survival for the wild tiger. Until then, it is up to
every conscientious citizen to urge them
to do the right thing.
Together, we can put the dark stain of tiger farming in
the past, and create a future where the greatest of the great cats is free to