Bowmanville Zoo owner denies wrongdoing after PETA releases video of whipping
Sandie Benitah, CP24.com
Published Tuesday, December 22, 2015 5:47PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, December 22, 2015 6:01PM EST
A Bowmanville zoo director is defending his actions after an animal activist group released a video showing the man whipping a tiger and saying that if PETA had seen his actions, they would burn the place to the ground.
PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – posted a 1:37 video of Michael Hackenberger training the Siberian tiger. Hackenberger is heard swearing angrily after the animal ignored his cue and jumped on a ledge instead of continuing with his practice routine.
“Fu**ing piece of fu**cking sh**,” he says as he follows the tiger with a whip in hand.
Hackenberger is seen striking the animal with a whip to get the animal to turn around. He then cracks the whip again a number of times as the animal lays on its back. The tiger also released a bowel movement, an action that PETA says is a typical fear response in big cats.
Hackenberger released his own video on YouTube, saying that PETA has additional footage that they’re not showing that shows his training in a positive light. He said PETA has taken his actions and words out of context and he insists that aside from whipping the tiger to turn the animal around, he was whipping the ground next to the tiger to exert his authority over him.
“Maybe I viciously hit the ground, maybe I viciously hit the air but I did not viciously whip that tiger,” he said. “My bad language? Foul. Terrible. But I did not strike that tiger except for the first two times to turn him around.”
Hackenberger filmed his YouTube response in the presence of what he said is the tiger in the PETA video. He approached the tiger and interacted with him several times to show that the animal is not afraid of him. The tiger appeared calm and quiet throughout his 31 minute video.
““This is not an animal that was struck by me. If he was, he wouldn’t be doing this,” he said as he petted the tiger. “This is an animal that is completely comfortable.”
He explained the tiger’s bowel movement in the original video by saying that the zoo’s logs for that day showed the animal was had been suffering from a bout of diarrhea.
The owner of the zoo apologized several times for swearing at the animal but likened the situation to a child giving his parent the middle finger.
At one point in the video, Hackenberger shouts, “You going to jump on that fu**ing ring? Like fu** you are!” while raising his middle finger.
In the video he made defending himself to the public, Hackenberger said, “I did this because that’s what the tiger did to me.”
“When you work with large, dangerous predators, they can’t defy you. It’s just not in the lexicon because if they defy you, they will ultimately hurt you.”
Hackenberger went through the PETA video and defended himself with each frame. At one point in PETA’s video, Hackenberger says “If … we'd been running a videotape the whole time you were here, and you did a 45-second … montage of the times I struck this animal … PETA would burn this place to the ground. Do your homework. Because if you don't, it's gonna be bad."
The zoo owner said once again, his words were taken out of context.
“What im talking about is the homework of developing the animal, the homework of understanding the animal, the homework of working with the animal, the homework of opening up worlds for the animal. That’s the homework!
PETA in the meantime has called for an investigation into Hackenberger’s actions by the Ontario SPCA and has asked that he be charged and that the tiger be confiscated.
"PETA's eyewitness footage confirms that Michael Hackenberger uses violence and physical domination, and he needs to be stopped," says PETA Foundation Deputy Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. "You should no more whip a young tiger than a young child—it's out of line and, we believe, outside the law."
The OSPCA has confirmed that they received an official complaint and is looking into the matter.
“This is an ongoing investigation,” the organization said in an emailed statement to CP24. “It is too early to provide any further information. We just recently received this video and currently have people looking into it.”
The Bowmanville Zoo is a member of Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums. The organization also released a statement saying animal welfare is their “paramount concern and that the issue is now going before an ethics committee.
“CAZA's values, policies and standards are clear: animals must be treated with respect and dignity and in a manner that does not jeopardize their welfare,” the statement says.
After viewing the edited video, we have decided to bring the matter before our Ethics Committee for investigation. The Committee is being empaneled today and we expect that it will convene quickly to consider the matter. The issues raised by the video are serious and require a thorough and fair review. As the matter is now before an adjudicatory body, we will not provide further comment until the investigation and adjudication are completed."
Hackenberger said he is prepared for the fallout the PETA video will cause.
““There’s going to be sh** storm over this, I know it but I stand here with my companions, both human and animals,” he said. “We’ve been doing this a long time. We believe in what we’re doing, we have nothing to hide and again, Peta is manipulating the story.”