On Wild Animals and Their Liberty

Enzo (left) and Diego (right)

In a tranquil neighbourhood of Brakpan, South Africa, there dwell in the abode of one Michael Jamison, in addition to other animals, two healthy and well-fed tigers named Enzo (born 14 March 2011) and Diego (born December 2014). They have to themselves a capacious enclosure (and therefore much space to walk around and even chase one another) and a swimming pool. Michael regularly posts videos showing their merry lives, and of his countless other animals.

A happy life, one would discern, but a few partisans of ‘animal liberty’, so to say, would deem this unacceptable, for to them these tigers ought to be denizens of the wild and must not be so kept. However, neither of these was born in the wild. They were born amongst humans, and Michael’s friends presented them to him, for they trusted his ability to take care of them. And take care he did. The tigers eat everyday (as opposed to the infrequency of the meals of an average tiger in the wild), are fed a variety of food — chicken, red meat, roast ham, beef, liver, fish (a variety therein, too) — and he gives them milk and whipped cream on occasion, the former with greater frequency and the latter twice a month, both of which much enthuse and gladden the tigers.

Would tigers born amongst humans, accustomed to not hunting but to eating everyday, survive for long in the wild? Perhaps, for we must not minify their ability to adapt, but perhaps not, because not all of them could possibly adapt with ease. Who is willing to chance their release and potentially leave them to their deaths?

From the videos on Michael’s channel, it is evident that he is not in complete control of the tigers themselves, in control of their feeding and the separation of their enclosure from the rest of the house though he is. They are quite friendly and greet him every morning when he commences his errands while passing them and imitating their chuffs; but they do not heed him on all occasions, for they have not been trained as would be a circus tiger. Diego is especially friendly towards Michael’s dogs (of course, he has to be content with chuffing at them from the other side of the fence) and is very curious to check out new paraphernalia that Michael may have bought. The two do get into fisticuffs on occasion, but get over it very quickly, as if it were but something done during playtime.

It is evident that these are well-behaved tigers, and no evidence gainsaying the contentment of their lives can be adduced. Would one yet maintain that it is improper of Michael to keep them?

I should personally deem it perfectly acceptable to keep them in a cage, so long as the cage is a capacious enclosure, and so long as they are well-fed, left mostly to themselves and not made to perform entertaining tricks. Their unpredictable schedules (for lack of a better word) must be respected. However, such tigers as were born in the wild had better stayed in the wild. No reason could possibly justify dispossessing them of their home.

Eternal as evolution is, I cannot purport to have grown in full measure, and I hope to augment my acuity in the company of beings far more erudite than me.