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Big Cat factory farms where distressed lions and tigers are stuffed into cages

Cruel Big Cat farmers in South Africa swipe week-old cubs and breed male lions for "canned hunting" - a barbaric practice where tourists shoot the creatures in a confined, inescapable spaces and keep their heads as sick trophies.

Non-native tigers are also bred in battery-style cages before being killed for body parts that will be used in Chinese medicines.

Shocking images obtained by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WPA) show the extent of the cruelty to the animals.

 
Cubs are seen stillborn and deformed, adult lions kept in squalid, confined conditions, and lionesses are extremely overweight from forced back-to-back pregnancies where they are made to give birth to five more litters of cubs than is natural.

According to reports, South Africa has up to 8,000 lions in captivity awaiting slaughter - with more being bred all the time.

TRADITIONAL MEDICINE
Most of the animals confined to these battery-style cages will be killed for their body parts with their bones boiled down to make tiger bone wine and other medicines.

The traditional medicine trade - the selling of remedies with little or no science behind them - is being driven up by increasingly wealthy populations in China and Vietnam.

 
The cruel concoctions made from the animals' body parts are believed to treat a wide range of ailments from arthritis to meningitis to issues with sexual appetites.

With wild tigers steadily becoming extinct, lions, jaguars and leopards are also being bred and their skeletons passed off as tiger bone.

Some cubs are even stolen from their mothers in the wild and reared in the tiny cages.

Now the WPA has released a report on the trade which describes laws on Big Cat factory farms as "inadequate".

CANNED HUNTING
Petting farms in South Africa, where tourists pay to sit with lion and tiger cubs, bottle-feed them and take selfies, supply the "canned" hunting trade.

When cubs grow too big to be deemed cute they are taken off and shot in enclosed spaces by trophy hunters.

Big Cat factory farms also supply both of these trades, as well as rearing the animals for use in traditional medicine.

Creatures bred for the canned hunting trade - often male lions as they are of no use to the factory farmers once they grow into adulthood - are released into a caged-in space with no escape.

Tourists pay to shoot and kill the animals then keep their heads as trophies, while their bodies are sold into the medicine trade.

Sick tourists will pay around £20,000 for a canned hunting trip, but prices can go up to almost £25,000 for trips that promise the hunting of rarer breeds, like white lions.

INBRED AND DEFORMED
Forced inbreeding in the factory farms means that the cats are subject to a number of health problems and often born with deformities.

A number of lion and tiger babies are stillborn.

Many of the lions also suffer with sight and hearing problems - hardly a fair hunt for tourists who pay to shoot the animals in captivity.

Dr Jan Schmidt-Burbach, a wildlife adviser at WAP, said: “These big cats are exploited for greed and money – for medicine that’s never been proven to have any curative properties whatsoever. For that reason alone, it’s unacceptable.

“But given that at each stage of their lives they suffer immensely – this makes it an absolute outrage.

“Many of these animals will only ever see the world through metal bars, they will only ever feel hard concrete beneath their paws, and they will never get to experience their most basic predatory instinct – a hunt.

“These animals are majestic apex predators – they are not playthings – nor are they medicine.”


Tiger bone: used as an anti-inflammatory drug to treat rheumatism and arthritis, general weakness, headaches, stiffness or paralysis in lower back and legs and dysentery.

Eyeballs: used to treat epilepsy and malaria. Tail: used to treat skin diseases. Penis: used in love potions such as tiger soup, as an aphrodisiac. Dung or feces: used to treat boils, hemorrhoids and cure alcoholism

Chinese texts point to calcium and protein in tiger bones, which are claimed to have anti-inflammatory properties

Western science has largely discounted any curatiuve powers in tiger bone

Chinese medicine stores trade steadily in tiger wines, powder, tiger balms and tiger pills. Many Asian communities believe that tiger bone, in powdered form or prepared as, “tiger wine,” soothes rheumatic pain and cures ulcers, malaria and burns
The use of Chinese medicine is also seen as something of a status symbol and has gained traction amongst some upper classes in Asia.


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