The Trainer Who Called a Baboon a Cocksucker on Live TV is Fighting Accusations of Whipping a Tiger

The owner of the Bowmanville Zoo has responded to PETA's accusations with a 31-minute video rant saying the whipping sound was just to get the animal's attention.

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Dec 23 2015, 6:53pm

An Ontario zoo owner and animal trainer who gained minor infamy after calling a baboon a cocksucker on live TV in August is now being accused of "viciously" whipping a young tiger, and he's shot back with a half-hour YouTube video denying the allegations.

In a post on its website, animal rights activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said an eyewitness filmed Bowmanville Zoological Park owner Michael Hackenberger whipping a Siberian tiger approximately 20 times in a row during a training session at the zoo. Part of the accompanying video, titled "Hollywood Animal Trainer Viciously Whips Young Tiger" (Hackenberger trained the tiger used in Life of Pi) shows a tiger on a leash with a trainer in an arena. Hackenberger appears to strike the rear of the tiger twice with a flexible rod, at which point the animal lies down on the ground and rolls on its back. A whipping sound can be heard 17 more times before the trainer orders the tiger to get up. Hackenberger can also be heard swearing at the tiger.

In the post, PETA claims the "young tiger was so traumatized that he involuntarily emptied his anal sacs, a fear response in big cats."

In another part of the video, Hackenberger, now sitting outside, says he likes "hitting him in the face," and how striking a tiger's paws while they're against a rock makes them sting more.

"If we'd been running a videotape the whole time you were here and you did a 45-second montage of the times I struck this animal, PETA would burn this place to the ground," he says, apparently unaware that the witness, has, in fact, been filming.

PETA ended the post urging readers to sign a petition to never support using animals in entertainment.

The Ontario Society for the Protection of Animals and Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums are now both investigating the alleged whipping. The OSPCA can lay charges if it believes animal abuse occurred, while CAZA can revoke the zoo's accreditation.

But Hackenberger isn't taking the accusations lying down. The zoo owner posted a 31-minute, uncut, unedited video on YouTube entitled "Our Response to PETA's Lies." In the part rant, part debunking, Hackenberger apologizes for swearing at the tiger, but then goes on to tell viewers about the importance of training animals in captivity to keep them stimulated ("The biggest problems we have in captivity are bored, obese animals," he says).

The camera then pans left to reveal the same trainer and tiger from the PETA video standing to the side, and, rod in hand, Hackenberger explains that he didn't strike the tiger repeatedly, but was hitting the ground and using the sound of it cracking to get Uno's attention. He then demonstrates it.

Throughout the video, Hackenberger plays back the PETA video on a laptop, pauses it, then explains what he was apparently actually doing. He also claims the clips of him talking about striking Uno were taken out of context.

Hackenberger ends his video with a challenge for PETA to release the rest of their video tapes and jabs the group's record of euthanizing animals at its shelter.

"Really? Got to hand it to you PETA, you've got balls. And you're hypocrites... Don't tell your lies, release the rest of the tapes," Hackenberger says to the camera. "...I thank everyone for their kind attention. There's going to be a shitstorm over this, I know it."

PETA has not responded to the challenge.

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