Many people list the white tiger as their favourite animal, but are perhaps unaware of the appalling inbreeding the animals were put through to obtain their white coat. Can there be any justification for the suffering inflicted upon them?
All the Yes points
- Breeding white tigers has no conservation value
- Inbreeding has caused white tigers excessive suffering
- Interfering with a species for cosmetic reasons is poor practice
- Nearly all White Tigers born in captivity are born with birth defects…
All the No points
- White tigers help educate people about conservation
- White Tigers are a miracle…
- Could this be seen as tiger racism?
Breeding white tigers has no conservation value
White tigers are only rarely found in the wild, because they have trouble camouflaging themselves. The last one was shot in 1951 in India, and although they could well reappear from time to time due to an isolated group of tigers becoming inbred in the wild they will always be at a disadvantage.
Any breeders genuinely interested in conserving tigers would be better placed breeding tigers with the more usual orange colouring. The inbreeding white tigers have been subjected to has weakened the bloodline to the point where it is of no value. Either the tigers have too many genetic abnormalities, or they have been bred with other subspecies to create hybrids which are of no use to conserving an individual subspecies.
To quote from Dr. Ron Tilson, Conservation Director of the Minnesota Zoo and manager of the world renown Tiger Species Survival Plan, “The white tiger controversy among zoos is a small part ethics and a large part economics. The tiger Species Survival Plan has condemned breeding white tigers because of their mixed ancestry, most have been hybridized with other subspecies and are of unknown lineage, and because they serve no conservation purpose. Owners of white tigers say they are popular exhibit animals and increase zoo attendance and revenues as well. The same rationalization can be applied to the selective propagation of white lions, king cheetahs and other phenotypically aberrant animals.”
As for breeding tigers of any color, Ron Tilson says, “For private owners to say, ‘We’re saving tigers,’ is a lie,” Tilson says. “They are not saving tigers; they’re breeding them for profit.”
Tilson says the exotic animal market is a multimillion dollar industry, ranking just below the illegal drug trade and just above the illegal gun market.
Tilson says tigers are the most charismatic animal on earth. Their appeal is universal. “They are the alpha predator who used to kill and eat us,” he says. “We cannot help but be in awe of their power and grace. Tigers represent everything fine and decent and powerful. Everything those people would like to be. It’s all an ego trip—big guns, big trucks, and big tigers.”
Inbreeding has caused white tigers excessive suffering
As well as weakening their bloodline, inbreeding has also led to a great many medical problems in white tigers. Just as pet dogs are over-refined to the point of deafness or breathing problems, white tigers have their own problems.
A common example is eye problems, which can cause the animal a great amount of suffering and can even lead to blindness. Deliberately breeding an animal in the knowledge that its life will be unnecessarily painful is cruel, and is a practice that should have no place in modern animal care.
White Tigers can only exist in captivity by continual inbreeding, such as father to daughter, brother to sister, mother to son and so forth. The white lions and golden tabby tigers are merely a product of this practice of inbreeding for white coats as well and are not being bred for any sort of conservation program either. ALL white tigers are cross eyed, whether it shows or not, because the gene that causes the white coat always causes the optic nerve to be wired to the wrong side of the brain. That is why white tigers are such a favorite of the tiger-tamer-wanabees; they are far more dependent upon their masters.
Consider this: Only 1 in 4 tiger cubs from a white tiger bred to an orange tiger carrying the white gene are born white, and 80% of those die from birth defects associated with the inbreeding necessary to cause a white coat. Of those surviving, most have such profound birth defects, such as immune deficiency, scoliosis of the spine (distorted spine), cleft palates, mental impairments and grotesquely crossed eyes that bulge from their skull that only a small percentage are suitable for display. Due to these birth defects the white tigers often die an early death. According to some tiger trainers, only 1 in 30 of those white cats will consistently perform. The number of tigers that have to be produced and disposed of in order to fill the public’s desire to see white tigers on display is staggering.
With the example given about eye problems, white or albino animals are known for their poor sight which is actually a consequence of their pigmentation not a genetic defect caused by inbreeding. Thus whilst it is regrettable that creatures that are likely to have sight problems are being bred, the actual breeding itself is not casuing the problems.
Interfering with a species for cosmetic reasons is poor practice
Tigers aren’t poodles – they are wild animals, and they don’t need improvement.
If people can’t see that they are already one of the most beautiful animals in the world, then perhaps they don’t have any business working with them. Tinkering with their genes in order to ‘improve’ them is just an act of vanity on the part of humans, a symptom of the mentality that if we don’t like something we can order it in a different colour. We need to learn to appreciate the animals in their natural state.
In an online poll, the public has shown a strong aversion to the practice of breeding white tigers.
Should animals be inbred to create coat colors that do not survive in the wild?
Answers Votes Percent
Yes 186 9%
No 1990 91%
Actually, to your point, tigers ARE poodles in this case.
If you’re making the point that they are being bred as boutique animals for little more than show and status, than any purebred pet applies as well. Like the white tiger, they are selectively bred and inbred to maintain colorings and body types often with little regard to the health and well-being of the animal.
What is the criteria for determining which animals can be “tinkered” with and which should remain in their natural state?
And I’ll agree, there is an element of vanity involved, but there’s vanity in the baby panda cams, or any special exhibit built around a zoo’s new and rare acquisition. But that vanity can serve a purpose to educate and publicize causes to which the public might not otherwise care.
Nearly all White Tigers born in captivity are born with birth defects…
Often, due to the intended inbreeding of white tigers, the offspring are born with birth defects. Nearly all white tiger cubs are cross-eyed or have facial deformities.
It is known that white tigers are bred for entertainment purposes. White Tigers are a mystery to many humans and, often, people do not know that White Tiger is little more than a genetic mistake. All people see is the striking color and the bright eyes. These qualities alone draw crowds at zoos, which is the reason zoos continue to inbreed their tigers.
It is wrong and it serves no purpose in conservation. In fact it just creates more problems for the tiger population. Imperfect cubs with facial deformities and dental deformities are often casted out or abandoned because of their birth defects. This alone is an act of animal cruelty. With the odds of 19 of 20 White Tiger cubs being imperfect, only 1 animal stands to have a good life while the others face a life of abandonment.
White Tigers were meant to happen naturally. Not forced. For White Tigers to appear in the wild, ON THEIR OWN, is a miracle- a miracle of natural selection when it comes to Tiger mating.
By forcing inbreeding, breeders are doing more harm than good. The fertile female tigers could be bred with other tigers from other lineage to create healthy and prosperous cubs that could improve the tiger’s standings on the red list. The creation of unhealthy, deformed cubs is a waste of fertile female tiger litters (which are limitted).
Breeders of captive White Tigers are committing an act of animal cruelty that results in abandoned animals and it should be banned completely.
If these statements are not enough fact for you… Please, do yourself a favor and refer to BigCatRescue.com. They are very informative on the issue. They also show pictures of the lives abandoned cats are forced to live and the deformities that plague them. The pictures will do more than make you gasp. It’s not only fact, it’s photographic proof.
In fact, the url to their article is:
White tigers help educate people about conservation
White tigers may have no genetic conservation value, but they make up for this with their educational value. As mentioned in the summary, they are many people’s favourite animal. Their presence in a zoo draws in visitors, who then have the chance to learn about animal welfare and the difficulties facing wild tigers, if not the tigers they see before them.
Additionally, in response to your first point re: square footage, as proven in your second point, having space does nothing for the tiger’s safety either as they are hunted in the wild, not just as pets, but for their pelts, claws and teeth, or to remove them from unprotected land marked for development. It’s a fallacy to point to the dwindling numbers and blame them on a need to satisfy someone’s ego. Left exclusively in the wild, the population would diminish past the point of self-sufficiency regardless of the wild pet craze. It may take longer, but as that was the trend before they became popular, it stands to reason that it would continue after.
And setting aside the personal menageries for a moment, with the current rate of decimation, if it weren’t for the zoo’s breeding programs (white or other), there would be no hope for the species at all.
And your question at the end somewhat defeats itself as well as makes a gross assumption about your audience. White tigers are a symbol people focus on, and being able to see them in the flesh keeps people interested in animals and conservation. While the price of my zoo admission may not go directly to tiger conservation, my attendance is noted. The more people visiting zoos, the more grants they can earn and donations they can raise and those funds do go directly to animal conservation. And not just for the tigers.
Tigers and other big cats were not designed for life in cages. Siberian Tigers will roam 400 square miles in the wild. There is no cage environment that gives them the level of freedom and stimulation that is their birthright. Those who justify keeping exotic animals in cages as a way to make people care about them in the wild obviously don’t know much about big cats. A captive bred and caged big cat is a mere shadow of who their wild counterparts are and any lesson learned by watching a tiger in a cage is based upon faulty information.
As for the age old line that people will only protect what they care about, and thus some cats have to suffer decades of deprivation and abuse for the good of all tigers, can be laid to rest now. There is no big cat more common in zoos and back yard menageries than the tiger and at the current rate of poaching of one tiger a day and less than 4,000 left in the wild it is abundantly clear that keeping tigers in cages did nothing to save them in the wild.
The numbers don’t lie. In this online poll the statistics prove that seeing big cats in cages does not have a positive impact on saving them in the wild.
Zoos say that having animals in cages causes people to support them in the wild. Based upon the amount of money that you have given to protect habitat, based upon seeing an animal in a cage, would you say this is True or False?
Answers Votes Percent
True 1372 34%
False 2684 66%
White Tigers are a miracle…
Period? It’s a weak point, but people do see it this way.
Tigers can be bred in capitvity but must be realeased. ASAP!
Could this be seen as tiger racism?
The white tiger has just as much of a right to be conserved as any other endangered animal. Not having a great defense mechanism of a coat is no reason to ignore the species.
Changing the subject to humans would it be the same?
Would people be willing to kill albinos?
Let people suffering terminal illnesses die without any care?
These points are exagerated but should also remind people to show a little compassion. Even if it is to a minority.
Tiger Racism? The White Tiger is not even a species… It is just a Bengel Tiger- well, can’t say that anymore, with the way breeders keep crossing species. The entire White Tiger population are descendants of one cat. Thus they are all imbred and, if they were left alone in the wild, would have died out a long time ago. If an animal serves no conservational value and would not exist in the wild, it should not be forced to exist in captivity.
If White Tigers were left to their own, they would not be here, because the first White Tiger in captivity would have eventually died leaving no trail behind. But, because of the forced breeding of father to daughter, White Tigers were forced into existance when they should not exist period.
It is not a question of albinoism being a negative… It’s a question of breeding for a certain appearance.
The question is:
Would you force, despite how unethical and wrong it is, two albino people of the same lineage (same family) to breed to make more albinos? Would you force, despite the obvious birth defects and disorders that would maim the lives of innocent creatures, these cats to keep breeding? Even when the birth defects often kill the cubs? Because they cannot survive the immune difficiency that is doubled as a baby white tiger?
Would you force something to live a maimed and abandoned life? That is the question. That is what people should be considering, instead of the appearance of a cute, cuddly white cub. They don’t stay cute and cuddly, they are faced with facial deformities and other issues, that make them ugly to people. People don’t see these cats though. They don’t see the abandonment that goes hand in hand with white tiger breeding. All they see is what the breeders want them to see:
The one cat that was lucky enough to come out perfect. That’s all people can stand to see. Everything else is just too gruesome.
Further to the above, the debate doesn’t suggest that white tigers be destroyed, merely that no more are deliberately bred. Humans have a responsibility to those that already exist to care for them properly for their whole lives – that much is obvious. Suggesting that no more should be bred is not showing a lack of compassion to those that already exist.