A French zoo where guests were allowed to feed Camembert cheese and whipped cream to lions and tigers has had its animals seized in a police raid.
The so-called animal sanctuary near Paris offered visitors the chance to pose for photographs with the animals while feeding them and play with them in cages.
Two lions cubs and one tiger cub were among the 14 big cats seized by the authorities ‘at the self-acclaimed rescue foundation Caresse de Tigre in the commune of Arelaune-en-Seine, near the French capital Paris on November 24.’
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A French zoo that was charging visitors to pet lion and tiger cubs and feed them Camembert cheese and whipped cream has been raided by police. Pictured: A woman holding a can of whipped cream feeds a young tiger
In total, 14 animals were seized by authorities – including two lion cubs (pictured) and a tiger cub – after a formal complaint was made by an animal welfare organisations last December
This is according to global animal welfare organisation Four Paws, who worked with local partner AVES France and submitted a formal complaint in December 2019.
Now the authorities have acted on that complaint, with Four Paws stating in a press release that it provided them with evidence that there was ‘a network of breeders and facilities that commercially exploit wild animals.’
Four Paws said: ‘The evidence revealed the commercial exploitation of lion and tiger cubs for paid interactions such as selfies, petting and bottle feeding while operating without the required permits. There was also an incident of a young lion biting a visitor in February 2019.
‘Four Paws has offered to the French authorities to provide a species-appropriate home for the three seized cubs at its FELIDA Big Cat Centre in the Netherlands.
‘Additionally, Four Paws calls on the European Commission to ban the commercial tiger trade across the EU once and for all which would see an end to facilities that exploit big cats.’
After investigating the activities of the Caresse de Tigre centre, officials from the OFB (Office francais de la biodiversite) took all 14 big cats that were kept on the premises.
The so-called animal sanctuary near Paris offered visitors the chance to pose for photographs with the animals while feeding them (pictured left and right)
While Four Paws have urged that at least the three cubs should be given ‘species-appropriate care’, the animals will reportedly remain on-site until ‘a long-term solution has been found’.
Four Paws say that the facility was welcoming tourists year-round despite not having the proper permits.
They also said that the centre was charging tourists €50 (£45) for 10 minutes of interaction with a lion cub, which included feeding it Camembert cheese and whipped cream.
Authorities raided the so called animal sanctuary on November 24, seizing the animals, according to animal welfare organisation Four Paws who filed a formal complaint last year
Four Paws say that the facility was welcoming tourists year-round despite not having the proper permits, and was charging people €50 (£45) for 10 minutes of interaction with a lion cub, and allowing them to feed the cubs cheese and whipped cream
Kieran Harkin, Head of Wild Animals in Trade at Four Paws, said: ‘The owner claims to rescue animals from circuses and unscrupulous zoos, but in reality, Caresse de Tigre breeds big cats to exploit them for profit.
‘Once the big cats become older and too dangerous for interactions, they are sent to circuses to perform.’
Four Paws spokesperson Katharina Baun said: ‘Following the official complaints by Four Paws and AVES France about incidents and exploitation of the animals at the facility, authorities should investigate the case further in the coming months.’
‘Potentially the prosecutor will start a court case based on the evidence gathered during inspections and the footage as provided by FOUR PAWS and AVES,’ she added.
She also confirmed that all 14 animals are still currently being held on the premises of Caresse de Tigre in the care of the authorities.
Speaking about the allegations that big cat cubs were fed Camembert and whipped cream, Ms Braun said: ‘This is not species-appropriate food and cubs should be fed by the mother, not by a non-qualified member of the general public who pays to interact with a wild animal.
The head of Wild Animals in Trade at Four Paws said that owner of the zoo claimed to be saving animals from worse circumstances – such as circuses and unscrupulous zoos. Pictured: A lion cub looks through a cage at the so-called animal sanctuary near Paris
According to the Animal Protection Index – which grades countries based on the protections they offer to animals – France is graded ‘C’, getting the same grade for its protection of animals in captivity. Pictured: Two women pose for photographs with lion cubs
‘This violates animal welfare standards and it’s not the right message to the public either. It is unclear at this point if the owners have been charged.’
According to the Animal Protection Index – which grades countries based on the protections they offer to animals – France is graded ‘C’.
This means France has widespread ‘recognition of animal sentience and prohibition of animal suffering’, reflected in the country’s legislation, but is found to still be flawed in other areas of animal protection.
The Index specifically ranks France with a ‘C’ when it comes to its protection of animals in captivity.
Globally, only a handful of countries are ranked ‘B’ overall, including the UK, The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Switzerland. No countries have the highest possible grade of ‘A’.