Life of Pi trainer filmed ‘abusing tiger’
The Ontario branch of the Society for the Protection of Animals says it is investigating Canadian Michael Hackenberger, the Life of Pi tiger trainer, after releasing a video allegedly showing Hackenberger abusing a young tiger.
December 23, 2015
Michael Hackenberger, the Canadian zoo owner who supplied the tiger for the hit 2012 film The Life of Pi and also trained animals for James Franco’s The Interview has been charged with five counts of animal cruelty by the Ontario SPCA, according to TMZ.
The Life of Pi ran into trouble after its release for the treatment of the animal used to play Richard Parker, the Bengal Tiger stuck in a life raft with Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma). The Hollywood Reporter investigated the film and was shown emails in which an American Humane Association monitor claimed the tiger, whose name is King, nearly drowned filming scenes in a giant water tank, which were later called “an accident” by director Ang Lee.
The tiger called Richard Parker in The Life of Pi was trained by Michael Hackenberger.
— durhamregion.com (@newsdurham)
April 14, 2016
Although Hackenberger supplied the tiger that played King, there is no suggestion he was responsible or even involved in that incident. Neither are the filmmakers connected with the chargers against Hackenberger.
Those charges stem from an undercover operation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which filmed Hackenberger beating a young Siberian tiger on the face and body with a whip. In the video used for evidence, Hackenberger allegedly tells the person filming him: “If we’d been running a videotape of the times I struck this animal … PETA would burn this place to the ground.”
— PETA (@peta)
April 13, 2016
Ontario SPCA said in a press statement the charges against Hackenberger included: causing the animal distress by striking it with a whip handle, repeatedly striking it with a whip, and pushing his thumb into the animal’s eye.
“The videos of Mr Hackenberger interacting with Uno, the Siberian tiger, provides a basis on which to lay charges,” Ontario SPCA Senior Inspector Jennifer Bluhm said. “Animal cruelty is a serious offence. Our investigative unit has spent significant time reviewing the facility and interviewing all involved. Our priority is always the health and welfare of the animals.”
The SPCA in Ontario had the power to take animals from Hacknberger’s Bowmanville Zoo, but did not do so. Instead it is said to be closely monitoring the zoo.