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The dating app Tinder, a social app that allows users to connect information from their Facebook profiles and find mutually-interested people, hosts more than just “matches.” A bizarre trend of posting photos with captive tigers has popped up on the app -- and it’s not be a good thing for animals.
Tigers have been appearing all over Tinder users’ photos -- tigers in zoos, tigers on leashes, baby tigers cuddling in peoples’ arms. Most of the time, the users are squatting over the tiger (or another species of big cat), petting it and grinning at the camera -- like these, courtesy of the several tumblr sites who post them: Tigers on Tinder, Tinder Guys With Tigers and Tigers of Tinder.
This is of course not a phenomenon singular to Tinder -- tigers naturally draw attention and are popular across various social media sites. And while it’s impossible to know what condition each tiger or big cat is kept in, many of the “Tigers on Tinder” photos may be putting some of its subjects in harm’s way.
“While it’s perfectly understandable that people everywhere want to broadcast their love of wildlife, posing with big cats and other exotics might harm the very animals people intend to celebrate,” said Jeff Pierce of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
There are two reasons why these photos can be problematic, Pierce says. The first is that it can promote the mistaken notion that humans and big cats can be “friends.” Encouraging this viewpoint can lead people to keeping big cats as pets -- which is generally considered dangerous for people and not ideal for the cats.
The second reason is for the cats in the photos themselves. Says Pierce:
To ensure the safety of those interacting with big cats, some of the animals have been chained or otherwise restrained, many are almost certainly sedated, and some might even be declawed, a practice that violates the Endangered Species Act and represents especially needless and inhumane treatment.
It’s also worth noting that many of the cats in the photos are young cubs. Bev Pervan of the wildlife charity Campaign Against Canned Hunting points out that handling can be stressful for the cubs, saying, “No animal, not even a domestic cat likes to be fondled by hundreds of different people, and yet this is what these poor little cubs are subjected to.”
While it’s difficult to prove where each cub lives from just a photo on Tinder, Pervan fears that some of the roadside zoos where the animals are kept participate in a “canned hunting” program, where the cubs are used to attract visitors, but are sold to be hunted when they are older.
This is of course not to say that every big cat featured in a photo on a social app is living a miserable life -- in fact, many of them may be living quite happily at sanctuaries or on reserves. But when trying to find a perfect match on Tinder, it’s probably not a good idea to use a caged exotic animal as bait.