In a shocking undercover video released by PETA December 22, 2015, Bowmanville Zoological Park owner Michael Hackenberger, who was the trainer for the tiger in the film “Life of Pie,” was captured on film viciously whipping a tiger. Hackenberger was caught hitting a Siberian tiger, named Uno, about 20 times in a row in the “training” session. Investigators said that the tiger was so traumatized, that he involuntarily emptied his anal sacs, a fear response in big cats.

In the video, which is very difficult to watch, as the crack of the whip is heard over and over, Hackenberger hits the tiger on its sensitive paws and face.

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The clip, which went viral, has damaged Hackenberger’s reputation, and recently the Ontario Society for the Protection of sent its officers to Bowmanville Zoo to examine animals after allegations of abuse at the hands of the zoo’s owner, but no action was taken. The Bowmanville Zoo has already come under harsh scrutiny after being named the second-worst zoo in North America for elephants by In Defense of Animals for keeping Limba, a 50-year-old elephant, on her own.

Hackenberger himself has been caught more than once using cruel methods to train his wild animals for entertainment. He previously swore at a baboon on live television when the primate fell off of a pony during a stunt.  If this is how Hackenberger treats his animals when witnesses are there to see it, we hate to think of what is done when out of the public eye.

In a response video, Hackenberger denied whipping the animal more than two times, claiming the lashes following the first two were hitting the ground, not Uno.  In the 30-minute video, titled “Our Response to PETA’s Lies,” Hackenberger claims, “A tiger will not lay on the ground and allow itself to be struck as this videotape suggests,” he said in his response. “They’ll turn around, they’ll try to kill you.”

In his response, Hackenberger plays the original video of the alleged abuse, before apologizing for his “atrocious” language. “Maybe I viciously whipped the air, but I did not viciously whip that tiger,” he said. Only problem for Hackenberger is that no one believes him, especially after he admitted taking pleasure in the vicious training session.

“I like hitting him in the face. And the paws … being on the rock, when you hit him, it’s like a vice,” he said.  “It stings more,” he stated in the undercover video.

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 10.31.27 AMImage source: YouTube/ Bowmanville Zoological Park

 

Despite the response, PETA is standing firm on its allegations of abuse in a statement released after Hackenberger’s rebuttal:

“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.”

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Nice try, Hackenberger. No one is buying it.

All image source: YouTube