So tiger parts sell for more money than you’ve ever seen, but it’s hard to find them in the wild any more for some reason. What’s an enterprising businessman to do? Why, build a tiger farm, of course. Grab a few tigers, start a “conservation” operation or a “zoo”, and once you get 500 animals you can get a permit to sell your surplus to make “tiger bone” wine:
[Alas, this excellent article on the Asian tiger trade will not embed here. Please visit it in person (it's free to view).]
Wildlife traffickers don’t even have to actually breed tigers. They can just set up a location where it looks like they are captive-breeding tigers, then poach tigers from the wild and sell the parts as though they were from captive bred animals. This apparently works for any species, not just tigers.
Although it does certainly appear that people are breeding captive tigers to sell for parts (in what way does this significantly differ from modern cattle operations?), I have been unable to verify whether or not the farms are also, specifically, starving tigers to death to satisfy nebulous legal issues requiring that the animal have died of “natural causes” for its parts to be sold, as in the following image I found floating around today. The image appears to be a scan of this news article, sourced from this blog entry from the TigerTime web site, which appears to reference a paper called the Straits-Times but was written by a TigerTime employee with no readily apparent source.
This image was what originally made me look into this subject. It just seems too awful to be completely true, and it isn’t. The report quoted above does not mention any requirement in Chinese law stating that animals which have died naturally are specifically legal (it just requires that the parts be “legally obtained”), and research suggests that the starving tigers are a different, though quasi-related, event: the tigers in question appear to have been starved (actually, fed “cheap cuts of chicken”, leading to malnourishment) when the facilities handling them “went into financial difficulties”. Not that it’s much of a relief, especially to the tigers, but it does not look like they were starved specifically so their parts could be sold legally (although I suspect the facility owners did not object to the “happy” appearance of an “extra” carcass or two). It just looks like that’s a “normal byproduct” of their “farming” operation. (Why does that distinction matter to me? Is “inconceivably terrible husbandry practices” better in some way than “deliberately starving animals to death”? Is it even different?)
Just another place where minor curiosity (“Hmmm, that headline looks a mite sensationalistic”) leads to a major facepalm moment: even “wildlife” is being factory farmed. Everything is being factory farmed, somewhere — and factory farming is never pretty. (Check out that National Geographic photo gallery for a picture of what it looks like when humans “captive breed” snakes for the pet trade, if you’re interested.)