‘Tiger King’: PETA Lawyer Defends Carole Baskin and Big Cat Rescue
Carole Baskin is enemy number one as far as Joseph Maldonado-Passage —better known as Joe Exotic — is concerned. The Netflix docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness focused on the feud between Baskin and Maldonado-Passage instead of the real issue at hand — the well-being of big cats.
Brittany Peet, the lawyer for the PETA Foundation, explained a few things that she claims the documentary series left out — including the fact that Baskin is running a reputable operation.
Carole Baskin slammed the ‘Tiger King’ docuseries
After Netflix released Tiger King, Baskin took to her blog to clarify what she felt was misrepresented. Aside from being accused of murdering her husband, Don Lewis, Baskin was also accused of running a similar operation to Maldonado-Passage.
In her blog post, Baskin refuted the documentary, saying it “had the sole goal of being as salacious and sensational as possible to draw viewers.” Baskin believed documentary crews “did not care about [the] truth,” using “unsavory lies” to gain traction with audiences.
PETA stands by Big Cat Rescue
Contrary to what Maldonado-Passage would have you believe, Baskin has a decent operation at Big Cat Rescue, according to Peet. She spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the “disheartening” way viewers have embraced the persona of Joe Exotic, pitting Baskin against him as the villain. “I do think Carole’s part of the story was exaggerated,” Peet said, explaining how the size of the cages at Big Cat Rescue was misrepresented in the series.
Having worked with Big Cat Rescue and the Baskins for several years, Peet called them “tireless and compassionate advocates” for the big cats living in captivity. Peet went on to explain the accreditation Big Cat Rescue has received for being a reputable facility:
Their advocacy program is second to none. The care they provide animals is incredible. They’re accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, which is the gold standard accrediting body for sanctuaries around the world. They provide the best standards for captive wildlife care, the largest minimum cage size, best enrichment standards.
At first, many fans were confused because, on the surface, Big Cat Rescue and the G.W. Zoo seemed similar. Unlike Maldonado-Passage’s zoo and many of the other operations shown in Tiger King, Big Cat Rescue is a sanctuary where animals are not bred, bought, or sold. Another big difference between sanctuaries like Big Cat Rescue and Joe Exotic’s zoo is that they don’t allow contact between visitors and the animals.
“Anyone who walks away from this thinking there’s any similarity between the treatment of cats provided at Carole’s sanctuary Big Cat Rescue and G.W. Exotic, Joe and Jeff Lowe’s facility, are walking away with a huge misimpression,” Peet said.
What ‘Tiger King’ didn’t show
According to Peet, the Netflix docuseries left out a significant player in the big cat arena. Tim Stark, who operates Wildlife in Need in Indiana, was shown as Jeff Lowe’s business partner in Tiger King. “PETA has an Endangered Species Act lawsuit pending against Tim Stark and Wildlife in Need right now, so we know perhaps better than anyone just how much of a villain Stark is,” Peet said.
She described some of the horrific things Stark has done to animals — including beating a leopard to death. While none of this was highlighted in the Netflix series, Peet is aware of the goings-on at Stark’s facility. In February, PETA celebrated Stark losing his appeal of a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) order revoking his license.
Moving forward, Peet is hopeful that most viewers will see “beyond the train-wreck quality of Tiger King” with an understanding that “these people are criminals, these people are abusing animals, and they are not good people.”