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Justin Bieber has landed in hot water with the animal rights group PETA after posing with a chained tiger over the weekend during a VIP engagement party in Toronto for his father, Jeremy Bieber.
PETA on Monday said the tiger comes from the Bowmanville Zoo, where the owner, Michael Hackenberger, a tiger trainer for Hollywood movies, now faces five animal cruelty charges after being allegedly caught on video whipping a Siberian tiger in his care.
“Justin Bieber is lucky not to have had his throat torn out by this stressed captive tiger,” PETA svp communications Lisa Lange said in a statement.
A PETA spokesperson told the Hollywood Reporter the tiger is owned and trained by Hackenberger. “The tiger who appeared at the Bieber party is identical to Robbie, a Bowmanville Zoo tiger we know is used for encounters with the public and was used in The Interview,” the animal rights group said in a statement.
“Each tiger’s stripes are unique, and Robbie even has several additional unique characteristics that match up with the Bieber tiger: pigmentation on the nose, a tear-drop shape above one of his eyes, and identical bald patches on the nose,” the statement continues.
PETA also sent a letter to Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun, to tell the pop star the big cat came from the local zoo.
“We know he (Bieber) is drawn to animals, but this is the very worst way to recognize this interest because exotic animals are usually torn away from their mothers prematurely, beaten into submission by trainers, are often doped up to be docile, and are deprived of everything that’s natural and important to them,” the letter stated.
Another animal rights group, World Animal Protection, also criticized Bieber for posing for a “selfie” with a wild animal. “To people with huge influence like Justin Bieber, our message is simple: tigers are wild animals, not entertainers … People posing with wildlife don’t realize that a ‘once in a lifetime’ photo for them means a lifetime of misery for the animal,” the group said in a statement.
The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals last month brought formal charges against Hackenberger. His zoo is located roughly an hour outside of Toronto.
Hackenberger has supplied animals for a number of TV and film productions including Seth Rogen’s The Interview as well as, most famously, Jonas, a Bengal tiger who featured prominently in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi (although the 2012 film also used computer-generated visual effects to portray the tiger).
A Hollywood Reporter investigation revealed in 2013 that another tiger on the set of Life of Pi allegedly nearly drowned during filming, according to an email from an American Humane Association monitor. Hackenberger has denied claims by PETA that he struck the Siberian tiger with a whip 19 times.
The Ontario SPCA began probing the alleged animal abuse by Hackenberger after PETA posted video of his behavior.
May 2, 11:30 a.m. Updated with statement from World Animal Protection.
Bieber posted the below photo to Instagram of the chained tiger he spent time with over the weekend.
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