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Netflix’s documentary series Tiger King has made its subjects famous, or infamous. Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic, is still in prison and has not seen the show yet. Some viewers still suspect that Carole Baskin, Maldonado-Passage’s rival, fed her ex-husband to a tiger. Their colleagues featured in the show have been making talk show rounds too.

Carole Baskin in Tiger King
Carole Baskin | Netflix

The Hollywood Reporter interviewed Tiger King directors Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin by phone and published their interview on April 1. During the interview, Goode spoke about one question he kept asking Baskin, but never got a response.

‘Tiger King’ director Eric Goode on the difference between animal rights and animal welfare

Tiger King began as a chronicle of the phenomenon of big cats in captivity. Goode and Chaiklin just happened to be filming while the criminal subplots occurred. To explain Goode’s issue with Baskin, he explained the difference between animal rights, organizations like PETA, and animal welfare.

“Animal rights can be as extreme as not riding a horse, or not wearing leather, not having a pet at all. Animal welfare advocates are preventing the suffering of animals. Then there’s conservation and species conservation and what conservation biologists do. My focus personally has been to be a conservationist, which is to save species, protect wild lands, sometimes bring animals into assurance colonies in the wild — like California Condors for example — and put them back in the wild.”

Eric Goode in The Hollywood Reporter, 4/1/2020

Eric Goode’s question for Carole Baskin

Goode and Chaiklin had a lot of time with Baskin and asked her a lot of questions over the course of Tiger King. Goode considers Baskin an animal rights and welfare activist. Goode wanted to get her on the record about conservation.

Tiger King
Joe Exotic | Netflix

“If you really want to stop the ownership of big cats in America, why don’t you do what the humane society does? Why don’t you mainly euthanize these animals? Or I should say this: Is it better to keep a tiger in captivity for 20 years pacing and suffering in a cage when you know that a tiger needs hundreds of miles of habitat to roam, or is it more humane to put that animal out of its misery? I don’t know the answer, but I always posed that question to Carole.”

Eric Goode in The Hollywood Reporter, 4/1/2020

Carole Baskin is still doing good, but she could do more

Chaiklin added a thought to give Baskin credit for doing good work.

“Carole’s doing a lot of good work in terms of raising public awareness around the fact that when you pet cubs you’re contributing to a puppy mill of tigers,” Chaiklin said. “The puppies can only be used from four to 12 weeks, maybe 16 weeks, and then they become unusable for the public to touch them and they become very expensive.”

Chaiklin still agrees with Goode that Baskin could use her position to do more.

Joe Exotic: Tiger King
Joe Exotic | Netflix

“However, the basic messaging issue problem was that she’s saying tigers don’t belong in cages,” Chaiklin said. “She has a lot of tigers in cages, albeit some of her cages are a bit bigger. They’re certainly not what a tiger needs, and so at $10,000 a year she could to do a lot of work in countries like Nepal, actually saving tigers in the wild. I think that’s what Eric is getting at.”