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.