"Sorry, Beyonce, but you and I both did the wrong thing. And we knew it."

Have you ever done something when you were on holiday that made you cringe when you got back home? That makes you, me and Beyonce.

Beyonce and I have a great deal in common.

One: We are both human females. Two: We have both stroked tigers.

Yes, that’s where our similarities end, but I think you’ll agree that puts us in ‘secret sister’ territory.

Last week, Beyonce shared a picture of herself, her husband Jay Z and their ridiculously gorgeous daughter, Blue, feeding a baby tiger at the Fantasea theme park in Thailand.

Here it is:

CUTE. right? ADORABLE, right? WHO WOULDN’T WANT TO, right?

But the wiser heads among you won’t be surprised to hear that not long after posting this pic, Beyonce got slammed by an avalanche of criticism.

World Animal Protection’s Dr. Jan Schmidt-Burbach said:

“When you look behind the scenes, vacation snaps like these support an industry that relies on animal cruelty. Many tourists unwittingly contribute to the suffering of wild animals like these. They’re simply not aware that their ‘once in a lifetime’ photo means a lifetime of misery for that animal.”

PETA’s Foundation deputy general counsel Delcianna Winders said:

“We’re sure that the Carters, like many unsuspecting tourists, would be horrified to learn that baby elephants and tigers propped up for photo ops are typically torn away from their mothers, violently beaten by trainers, and deprived of everything natural and important to them… PETA encourages all caring people to enjoy nature with their families in ways that leave captive animals out of the picture.”

And me, I said. “Oh shit, don’t remind me. I did that once.”

I think you’ll agree that this photo of me stroking a tiger in Thailand proves, once and for all, that I am a fearless bad-ass.

Yes. That’s me. I laugh in the face of danger.

When this picture was taken, I was not naive young backpacker. I was 30. I was travelling around Thailand by myself for a month as part of a between-jobs extended overseas adventure (an entirely excellent idea). I was a recently-lapsed vegetarian who had avoided meat on principle for 12 years. I didn’t believe in zoos. I was a politicised, letter-writing, volunteering kind of bleeding heart.

But dammit if I didn’t just want to cuddle a tiger. So when I found myself in Kanchanaburi, where there’s a place called Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua – or Tiger Temple – I left my principles at my charming river-side guesthouse, paid my money and got on the bus.

The Temple was reportedly started as a sanctuary for rescued tigers in 1994, with eight big cats. As of 2014, it was home to 135 tigers, of seemingly mysterious origin.

After I had my picture taken in the tiger “canyon”, I went to the area where the animals live. it was a concrete bunker with bars, where “rescued” tigers paced up and down at the bars, snarling. They seemed – mysteriously – a great deal less docile than the ones you were allowed to pat. Travellers whispered that the tourist cats must be drugged.


The monks said that they were used to people, and that the power of meditation kept them relaxed.

There were tiger cubs, and you could play with them like kittens. Monks walked big cats up and down to the canyon on giant chain leads, like overgrown labradors. It was surreal,  but for any person who had ever dreamed of cuddling a baby tiger (which is everyone in the world, yes?), it was completely heavenly.

Traveller Turner Barr volunteered at Tiger Temple. This is his story: (Post continues after video).

But it was bullshit. And I knew it.

Travellers (and doubtless keepers) have been mauled at the Temple. It’s been the subject of many campaigns for closure, controversial animal welfare reports and calls for more scrutiny to be applied to where it gets its tigers, and how it keeps them.

But that doesn’t really matter.

Not that it doesn’t matter that the Temple is mistreating animals, or that the place may be corrupt. It’s just entirely unsurprising.

Keeping large wild animals in captivity purely for tourists’ photo opportunities is Wrong.

When I paid my money to go and have my picture taken with one of the world’s most fearsome, majestic creatures chained up like a dog outside a boozer, I knew it was Wrong.

Taking tiger cubs from their mothers at a very young age so that privileged Westerners like me could have the pleasure of feeding them from a baby bottle – over and over, all day – was Wrong.

Training wild animals to the point where they will walk alongside you on a lead, with more patience and discipline than your average blue heeler is Wrong.

And I knew all that, really.

It was before we automatically Shared everything on social media, and if it been had been today, and I made the same choice, I probably wouldn’t have posted it.

Which is probably the lesson Beyonce has learned, since her “Tiger Selfie” has vanished from her Instagram account.

But it’s the wrong lesson. Rather than keeping quiet about the ethically-questionable decisions we make when we’re far from home, how about we just make another decision?

The Right one.

Have you ever done anything overseas that you felt uncomfortable about when you got home?

Tags: animal-protection , celebrity , travel
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