Susan Bass is the PR director for Big Cat Rescue (BCR), a Florida-based cat sanctuary that has rescued many cats from so-called trainers and life in the entertainment industry. While Bass called the Hackenberger footage "unbelievable," she said the brutal whipping is standard for the industry.
"In order to train a cat for a circus act like that ... it has to be done with fear and pain," Bass explained. "They're either going to use whips like they did in that video, or they sometimes use tasers electrocuting the cats, and it's all fear-based."
"And once the cats have been quote-unquote trained to perform, even when the trainers are in the arena with the cats years later, it's just the fear of seeing that whip or electric cattle prod in the trainer's hand that makes them perform," she added.
Bass would know; BCR has rescued several big cats with severe psychological and physical damage from being trained. "We, years ago, rescued a black leopard, and in order to train him the owner had hit him in the head with a shovel," she said. "Repeatedly. To the point that he damaged his eyes and skull."
A tiger cub posed for a Christmas photo at Bowmanville Zoo.Facebook/The Bowmanville Zoological Park