Netflix’s docuseries Tiger King has become the breakout hit of these dark times. Compulsory viewing for those stuck at home and seeking escape. Everyone’s talking about the crazy characters, the plot twists and turns and, yes, the travesty that is the big cat trade in the US. But what worries me is what no one is talking about: the link it shows between animal abuse and violence towards women.
Carole Baskin, the woman who tried to shut down the private zoo owned by Joe Exotic, the self-styled Tiger King, was a victim. Joe Exotic was a dangerous man, with access to weapons and violent tendencies, who made consistent threats to her life and her safety. The silence around the violence exposed in this docuseries – both towards animals and women – suggests to me that there is still a pervasive acceptance of violence in our society, especially towards women who men consider “deserve it”.
It’s something that as a woman in the animal protection movement I know about firsthand. I’ve received threats too. During my political election campaign I received messages from shooters telling me they had taken my corflute for “practice”. I’ve received death threats, been followed home, chased down and hit by a car, yelled at, and threatened with sexual violence. I have spoken to the police. The reactions range from chuckling, to a stark warning, “You should stop doing what you do. It won’t be long before an animal advocate will get killed.”