The Tiger Temple in Thailand is known to locals as a spiritual sanctuary where wild animals and humans can peacefully co-exist. The temple is west of Bangkok in the Kanchanaburi Province. The sanctuary has been under fire for many years due to alleged mistreatment of the tigers on display inside the temple. The fears of many were realized on June 1, 2016, when authorities found 40 dead tiger cubs in a freezer at the Buddhist temple.
The temple does not only house tigers, although the magnificent animals are the main lure to the temple. They also house Asian black bears, hornbills, and many other animals and birds. The travesty of these animals being kept inside the sanctuary is that they are poorly fed, and the tigers are chained so low to the ground that they are unable to move.
A Day in the Life of a Monk
Monks are known to be a peaceful and kind sect that meditates and prays throughout the day. According to Buddhanet, there are a whopping 29,000 temples in Thailand alone, all of which observe a strict regimen as follows:
- Rising at 4:00 a.m., the monks’ first meditation of the day begins and is followed by an hour of chanting.
- At 6:00 a.m, the monks walk barefooted through the neighboring blocks while locals make offerings of food to them.
- Once the sun has fully risen and the monks have made their way back to their temple, they sit and eat breakfast together while making a blessing for world peace.
- While most Americans are eating and planning their dinners out for the evening, monks can choose to eat a light lunch at 12:00 p.m. or none at all . If they do not eat, they have to wait until the following morning at sunrise to nourish themselves.
- Unlike American children or adults, classes for the monks start at 1:00 p.m. The classes are in Buddhism, and some monks are allowed to attend school outside of the temple.
- The monks are devoted to their meditations. At 6:00 p.m. they leave for a two-hour meditation and prayer session.
- Like Americans and children around the world, monks do have a set homework time, which begins at 8:00 p.m.
Do not be fooled by the hours missing between some of the activities, because monks are a hardworking sect. The monks are given specific duties for day-to-day maintenance of the temple and its grounds. Where there seems to be downtime in their schedules, it is really time to do assigned chores. They also have an astounding 227 set of strict rules they must follow daily.
Why are the Peaceful Monks Mistreating Animals?
The temple was given its first tiger cub in 1999, with others to follow in the same year. The temple is known to also house other animals like jackals and Asian bears, but they do so without the right permits to keep the animals on the grounds.
Monks are known for their love of nature and calls for peace, so the question arises as to why they have been the center of controversy since 2001, especially when it comes to the upkeep and trading of the majestic animals. The Buddhist monks have been accused of the mistreatment of the tigers that live in the sanctuary, as well as illegally breeding and selling them on the black market.
As reported by Angloitalian, in order to keep visitors safe from harm while taking pictures with these beautifully dangerous animals, the monks declaw them and remove their teeth; many times going as far as to clip the tendons in the tigers’ wrists to stop them from swatting or running.
The monks have claimed that releasing the animals back into the wild is their main priority, however, it might seem that the promise to do so is an empty one, because the animals could never return to the wild with missing teeth, claws, and tendons. They would be a target for other aggressive animals, and in no way be able to defend themselves, or to even feed themselves.
A Call to Action
The Department of National Parks (DNP) has tried several different times to confiscate the large cats from the temple. They were stopped from going inside the temple by the monks who ran it. On Monday, the authorities, which included the WFFT and other NGOs, pitched a full-scale raid on the temple to take the tigers. Tom Taylor, assistant director of WFFT, who was there at the time of the raid, told BBC:
The monks were at this one small entrance gate – the only gate to the temple, and they were refusing entry to anyone.
Fortunately, the officials had gotten a court order on Tuesday allowing them onto the temple’s property. Since gaining access to the tiger temple, 40 tigers have been saved in the first two days of a week-long operation. There will be many more tigers saved in an ordeal that has taken more than 1,000 people to undertake.
Authorities have now started feeding the tigers still left at the sanctuary because the monks have refused to feed them, said Taylor. After further investigation of the property, there were 40 dead cubs found in a freezer on the temple’s grounds, along with other animal body parts.
Thankfully, the tigers are going to be transported to two governmental breeding centers in Thailand’s Ratchaburi Province, as they cannot be released back into the wild. Taylor also suggests that since the tigers have been hand-raised without fear of human interaction, releasing them back into the wild would only cause harm due to their lack of survival skills. The ability to fend for themselves has gone out the window, since the monks mutilated the animals in order to make them compliant for human interaction.
Cruelty to animals is never okay, because they are the most innocent of the world’s creatures. They live by instincts and do not know they are supposed to act differently than what was expected by their human counterparts. It is unfair for humans to inflict their wills on something that knows not what they do, or even what the human caring for them does. To be cruel to such innocence is a sign of one’s character.
Opinion News by Tracy Blake
Edited by DiMarkco Chandler
BBC News: Thai Tiger Temple’s long history of controversy
BBC News: Thailand Tiger Temple: Forty dead cubs found in freezer
Angloitalian: The Terrible Truths from Thailand’s Tiger Temples
The New York Times: At ‘Tiger Temple,’ Thai Officials Seize 33 of the Big Cats
Buddhanet: A Monk’s Dream Comes to Life
Image Courtesy of brett marlow’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License