Like seemly the rest of the country I too have watched the Netflix Limited Series, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness. Before I viewed the series it had been recommended to me by many people, and had taken the internet by storm. When it was described to me as “watching a car crash, where you can’t look away”.
My initial reaction to the show was similar. However, a few things stood out to me. First of all, the show is listed as a true crime show. While the big cat trade in the United States is disgusting, abusive, and deplorable in the treatment of animals, I typically associate true crime with murder, or mob bosses. Furthemore, even the name of the show is slighly misleading with Murder in they title since there is not a single confirmed or successful account in the making of the show.
After first viewing, I was left with two feelings: Complete disgust at the Big Cat industry, and realization of the stupidity of some people. I then began to research the show casually, just to find more information on the people mentioned, the show may have potentially been excluded for the sake of television.
The first thing I found were many sources stating that people appearing on the show were enraged by the way that they had been portrayed. An Esquire interview stated that Carole Baskin was unhappy with episode 3 and how it focused on making it seem that she killed her second husband and fed him to tigers in her animal sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue. Jeff Lowe, current owner of the G.W. Zoo, was also reportedly unhappy with his portrayal in the show. In a Washington Post article he said that the show maybe told 10% of the story and made him out to be a villain.
The docuseries focuses on the tiger trade in the United States, and highlights the sale and exploitation of tiger cubs specifically. It talks about how tiger cubs can be sold privately for thousands of dollars, and introduces the lack of legislation on the topic. It also addresses organizations such as that of Doc Antle that primarily focus on tiger cub petting operations. The show also accuses Antle of euthanizing tigers that have grown too big to participate in cub petting programs, and states that his compound was raided in December of 2019.
The final credits of the show give slightly more information to conclude the series, stating that while there are only 4,000 tigers left in the wild, there are between 5,000 and 10,000 in captivity in the United States alone and I found that incredibly surprising.