There were other animals roaming the grounds - deer, cows, camels, goats, pigs and peacocks - and some were sick, skinny or lame. Only the water buffalo looked content, probably because the monks hadn't found ways to exploit them. I came across a deer with a torn-off hoof staggering on a raw bloody stump. He gave up and slumped by the temple stairs. I was upset to see the buck in obvious distress and sought out the Canadian volunteer, who had driven us on the moped, to help. "We let animals be," he shrugged. "Buddhists don't interfere with nature."
"No," I snapped, "they just imprison, drug and torture them."
In line with the organization's spiel, he said the tigers had a spiritual bond with the monks, and the cubs were even brought to the temple to have breakfast with them. To prove his point that the animals had freedom to live (and breed) naturally, the volunteer added, the grounds were overrun with wild pigs. "If that's the case, why aren't there more baby tigers?"
"The monks sold them to China," my husband taunted him, unaware how prescient his words were.