For Immediate Release:
December 8, 2021
David Perle 202-483-7382
Myrtle Beach, S.C. – Since the first season of Tiger King, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has cited or sued every animal-exploiting roadside exhibitor featured in the series for animal welfare violations—except for Myrtle Beach Safari operator Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, so today, PETA fired off a letter demanding that the agency start holding him accountable.
Antle breeds big-cat cubs, prematurely separates them from their mothers, and forces them—including as juveniles and as adults—into stressful and dangerous on-camera encounters with influencers, athletes, other “VIPs,” and members of the public under a “closed set” exemption that does not legally exist and appears to be reserved just for him. The USDA is greenlighting these potentially deadly publicity stunts, despite officially maintaining that using big cats in this way violates the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). In 2005, the USDA told Antle that these animal encounters violated the AWA, prompting him to sue—and lose. But his reckless stunts have continued.
“Turning a camera on does not suddenly make it safe or acceptable to harass and mistreat big cats,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. “Antle is not above the law, and PETA is calling on the USDA to throw the book at him at long last for brazen animal exploitation and human endangerment.”
Antle’s stunts also fly in the face of the USDA’s recent official advisory urging big-cat exhibitors to suspend hands-on animal encounters during the pandemic—and for good reason, as COVID-19 is transmissible to humans from other species and animals at zoos across the country have contracted the disease from humans.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information on the group’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.