400 Asiatic black bears
and 1,300 tigers
are bred and fed here
in tiny, filthy cages:
one of many "farms"
in southern China:
Great Culture of the Ages.
concocted from unimaginable
makes Powerful Chinese Medicine.
Makes you very strong.
And so tolerably wrong.
a report from
BRED FOR THEIR BODY-PARTS
Danny Penman, 12th March 2007
Cruel almost beyond
belief, a Chinese farm breeds hundreds of tigers in rows of battery
cages ... so they can be killed and turned into wine.
King, the Siberian
tiger, stares at me through the bars of his cage. His two beautiful,
graceful companions pace back and forth across their tiny compound.
They look crushingly bored. The most exciting thing they can do
is paw mournfully at the dirty pools of rainwater on the floor
of their cage.
what shoulder, & what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart ?
Although the Xiongsen
tiger park, near Guilin in Hunan Province, south-east China, appears
to be a depressingly typical Third World zoo, with a theme park
restaurant and open areas where tigers roam, it actually hides
a far more sinister secret: it's a factory farm breeding tigers
to be eaten - and to be made into wine.
In row upon row
of sheds, hundreds of tigers are incarcerated in row upon row
of cages which they never leave - until they are slaughtered.
Visitors to the
park can dine on strips of stir-fried tiger with ginger and
Chinese vegetables. Also on the menu are tiger soup
and a spicy red curry made with tenderised strips of the big cat.
Visitors can wash it all down with a glass or two of wine made
from Siberian tiger bones.
A waitress at the
farm's restaurant tells me proudly: "The tiger meat is produced
here. It's our business. When Government officials come here,
we kill a tiger for them so they have fresh meat. Other visitors
are given meat from tigers killed in fights. We now have 140 tigers
in the freezer.
also sell lion meat, bear's paw, crocodile and snake. The bear's
paw has to be ordered in advance as it takes a long time to cook."
The waitress clearly does not care that she is selling meat and
wine from endangered species. She is not worried that selling
them is against Chinese and international law, and helps to fuel
the poaching that is driving tigers to extinction.
Tigers and other
endangered species are being reared on an industrial scale through-out
China, despite international treaties forbidding this. The Mail
discovered three factory farms breeding tigers in China. The Guilin
farm alone has 1,300 tigers, including the incredibly rare and
elusive Siberian sub-species.
rears and slaughters Bengal, South China and White tigers. More
than 300 African lions and 400 Asiatic black bears are also reared
here for food and 'Traditional Chinese Medicines'.
The Chinese authorities
claim that farms like the one at Guilin are a vital part of the
country's conservation efforts, and that they will one day release
these endangered creatures back into the wild.
But my visit to
the Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Mountain Village revealed that their
real intention could not be more different. For the fact is that
these poor, deprived animals could never survive in the wild.
Having spent their
lives in tiny, battery-style units, they cannot hunt and would
be dead within days of being released. Each shed at the tiger
farm - and I saw at least 100 - houses between three and five
tigers in a space no larger than a typical family living room.
In relative terms, they have about as much space as a battery
hen. [Hens - in their billions - suffer just as much, of course,
but are not nearing extinction.]
The animals have
all been bred on the farm. The cubs are taken from their mothers
at three months and put in a kindergarten. I saw around 30 tiger
cubs in this 'crèche', where they stay until they are old
enough to be transferred to the battery units.
Many of the youngsters
kept leaping at the fencing. The younger ones simply wanted to
play like kittens. The older cubs were already showing signs of
Tigers are naturally
solitary creatures that roam over dozens of square miles, so it's
hardly surprising that life in the cages drives them insane. I
saw numerous examples of stress-related repetitive behaviour.
The mature animals
paced back and forth across their cages for hours on end - three
steps forward, three steps back. Some hurled themselves at the
bars of their prison cells, while others simply stared into space.
the creatures to attack each other, often resulting in death.
Officially it is only the tigers killed in such fights that can
be eaten or turned into wine. But it is clear that many of them
are released from their unimaginable misery by a bullet in the
They are not the
only animals killed. For entertainment, visitors to the animal
park can watch the Live Kill, a sick spectacle in which
animals are 'hunted' and torn to pieces by tigers while onlookers
I watched in horror
as a heifer was stalked and caught by a tiger. Its screams filled
the air as it struggled.
A wild tiger would
dispatch its prey within moments, but these tigers' natural killing
skills have been stunted by years of captivity. The tiger tried
to kill - tearing, biting at the cow's body in a pathetic-looking
frenzy - but it simply didn't know how. Eventually, the keepers
stepped in and put the cow out of its misery.
the tigers from the Guilin farm end up at a winery 100 miles to
the north, their carcasses dumped in huge vats of rice wine and
left to rot for up to nine years.
The Chinese believe
that the tiger's strength passes into the wine as its body decomposes.
They also believe that it is a powerful medicine that wards off
arthritis, strengthens bones and acts as a general tonic.
Smelling like a
mixture of methylated spirits, antiseptic and old meat, it is
difficult to believe that anyone would willingly drink it, and
yet people pay up to £100 a pint for it.
The Guilin farm
also has its own small winery and acts as a distribution centre
across China. The distribution manager showed me around with a
A small dingy office
acts as the nerve centre of the warehouse. On the wall were charts
showing that day's deliveries of tiger wine across China. Six
crates were sent to Wuhan and another to Tianjing. Six crates
of 'powdered bear' were sent to Shanghai. Numerous other cities
and countless deliveries were also listed.
We were led into
the warehouse, where I was hit with the disgusting and potent
aroma of tiger wine. I was led past countless crates containing
the foul-smelling brew. In the corner of the warehouse was a huge
brown earthenware vat. It must have held at least 50 gallons,
and its contents were probably worth around £12,000.
"We have three
ages of wine," said the manager. "Three, six or nine-years
old. It helps with arthritis and strengthens old people's bones."
She slid aside the
lid of the earthenware vat to reveal a reddish-brown liquid with
an overpowering smell of meths. A piece of string was pulled out
of the vat. Attached to the end was a tiger's rib cage. Small
slivers of dark red flesh could still be seen clinging to the
bone, even though it had probably been in the vat for at least
The manager then
filled up an old plastic water bottle with a pint of wine and
handed it to my fellow tourist. He paid £30 for it.
think of tiger wine, the Chinese regard it as a potent drink with
almost magical qualities. In the past, a Chinese doctor may have
prescribed small quantities of wine for a short period of time.
But in recent years,
big companies have moved into the market and industrialised all
parts of the industry. Now the wine is becoming an essential drink
for China's corrupt bureaucrats and the nation's nouveaux-riches.
say tiger farming is not only barbaric, it could lead to the animal's
extinction in the wild.
"It is stimulating
demand for meat and wine, and this will inevitably lead to more
poaching," says Grace Gabriel, of the International
Fund for Animal Welfare.
costs £5,000 to raise a tiger from a cub to maturity in
one of these farms, while it costs no more than £20 in India
to poach one. On the market, a dead tiger can fetch £20,000.
a huge margin, it is inevitable that more people will poach wild
tigers if demand increases," she adds. "There are only
a few thousand tigers left in the wild, and the last thing they
need is increased demand for their body parts."
dread hand? & what dread feet?
If present trends continue, tigers could be extinct in the wild
within a decade. Three subspecies have already vanished. Chinese
tigers are down to a pitiful 20 animals in the wild and are "functionally
There are only about
450 Siberian tigers left in Russia's Far East. The remaining 3-4,000
are sparsely scattered across India, Nepal and South-East Asia.
The trouble is that,
as tigers become rarer in the wild, their 'street value' increases,
which in turn encourages even more poaching.
Tigers have already
become extinct in India's most famous reserve at Sariska. Numbers
have plunged in several other reserves, too.
Most of these tigers
will have been sold to traders in China. The Chinese authorities
do virtually nothing to clamp down on this illegal trade, and
many corrupt bureaucrats and police earn substantial sums from
And demand is continuing
to increase as ever more bizarre uses for tigers are promoted.
Tiger whiskers are used to 'cure' laziness and protect against
bullets. Their brains, when mixed with oil and rubbed on the skin,
are promoted as a cure for acne. Penises are used as aphrodisiacs,
while hearts apparently impart courage, cunning and strength.
Although it is illegal
to trade internationally in such tiger products as wine, the Chinese
are lobbying hard to get the law relaxed. This June 2007, the
Chinese Government is expected to press the Convention on the
International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to allow the
trade in 'medicines' such as wine produced from farmed tigers.
If agreed, it will
lead to a massive increase in tiger farming and tens of thousands
of these noble beasts will spend their lives in battery cages.
If the Chinese get
their way, then it will almost certainly drive the tigers over
the cliff into extinction.
It is almost too
late to save this magnificent creature - but not quite.
For more information about the trade in endangered species
the hammer? what the chain?
© Belinda Wright WPSI-ITC