We already know about the suffering endured by animals in the exotic pet trade, and the dangers these animals bring to their owners, the public and our ecosystem. Even so, this new mini-documentary from VICE gives a blunt and harrowing look at the industry and the horrors that go on behind the scenes and right out in the open.

Since individual states are responsible for creating their own wildlife trade regulations, it is perfectly legal to sell exotic pets in some areas. Where the practice is illegal, it is still difficult to track and punish vendors because police can’t identify all exotic species or distinguish whether they came from the wild or a seller.

Exotic Feline Rescue Center director Joe Taft narrates with an unsettling, William Hickey-esque drawl which ads a heavy layer of creepiness to the episode. He owned big cats as a youth, when owners were more serious and knowledgeable about caring for them, and ruminates on how things have changed since then. His clear passion for exotics, combined with his  spooky speaking style, gives real weight to the message.

The video is gripping and worth watching, but be warned. Graphic images of dead animals, hunting and tranquilizing a cougar (for rescue purposes) may disturb sensitive viewers.

Image source: tpsdave/Pixabay