Time to Stop Trade of Big Cats: MEPs to French Minister of Ecology

9 Mar 2021
The Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals sent a letter on March 4 to Minister Pompili and the French CITES Management authorities to express its serious concerns with the commercial exploitation and trade in France of big cats, especially concerning tigers as an endangered species.

The Intergroup extends its sincere gratitude following the announcements by Minister Pompili on 29th September 2020 to significantly improve the conditions of animals in France, including the phasing out of wild animals used in travelling circuses and improving the keeping conditions for wild animals in zoos. However, France has become a country with captive facilities that supply illicit big cats’ traders in Europe and further afield. The commercial exploitation of these protected animals does not support conservation efforts and poses a risk to public safety. The Intergroup recommends extending the forementioned measures to suspending the commercial trade of big cats within and from France, and to support the banning of commercial tiger trade at EU level.

The FOUR PAWS Report (2020) ‘Europe’s second-class tigers. Revealing the out-of-control captive tiger numbers and commercial tradehighlights a serious lack of overview on captive tiger numbers, the presence of extensive commercial trade and the occurrence of incidents (accidents, seizures etc.) with tigers and other big cats across EU member states and neighbouring countries. In an attempt to determine exactly how many tigers are kept in captivity across Europe, Freedom of Information requests were sent to all EU Member States and neighbouring countries. A total of 36 European countries and over 600 national and local authorities were contacted. Only 13 EU member states were able to share their numbers, and unfortunately, French authorities were unable to provide numbers (read here).

This lack of overview in captive populations has serious repercussions, with tigers supposedly bred “for conservation purposes” ending up with facilities that have no educational or conservational purpose and are only focused on making money by breeding, trading, and displaying the big cats for entertainment purposes. The judicial seizure of 14 lions and tigers in Arelaune-en-Seine (read here) and the seizure and confiscation of 10 tigers in Blacourt (read here) are recent examples of the issues involved in a widespread commercial trade and exploitation of big cats.

Furthermore, some live French tigers have been (re-)exported to Vietnam via the Czech Republic where the tigers ended up in the hands of convicted tiger traffickers. Traders there believe that European tigers are larger and stronger, which makes them especially valuable for breeding.

The overall situation for big cats in France and the rest of Europe paints a worrying picture and the private keeping, breeding, and commercial trade of big cats, especially tigers, remains out of control. The Czech Republic and Slovakia have already announced the suspension of commercial export of tigers, and these have been encouraging moves. The EU should follow and provide Member States with clear guidance on the need to ban commercial trade in captive-bred tigers and their parts.