Katy Perry talks about screaming like a lion in her song “Roar,” and this past Wednesday, she sparked controversy by snuggling with a lion.
Perry visited the Black Jaguar White Tiger Foundation (BJWT) while she was in Mexico, and she shared photographs of herself cuddling and patting lion and jaguar babies on Instagram (which have since been removed). (The singer and the animals may be seen in a video on BJWT’s Instagram page.)
BJWT claims to be a sanctuary that rescues big cats from circuses, illegal breeding facilities and the pet trade. But animal welfare advocates dispute that, calling it a fake sanctuary that exploits the animals for selfies and celeb photo ops — and that’s what’s upsetting Perry’s fans and big cat lovers.
World Animal Protection’s Cassandra Koenen told The Dodo that “fake wildlife attractions like Black Jaguar White Tiger prop up this dirty entertainment business.” “Don’t fall for false sanctuaries.”
Perry’s interactions with the cubs may seem sweet — and it’s possible she didn’t realize the sanctuary wasn’t legit — but generally, if a baby animal is available for a selfie opportunity, there’s often abuse involved. Babies are often bred for selfie opportunities and visitor interactions, and taken away from their mothers prematurely.
When they get too big to pose, they could be shoved into tiny cages and used to breed new babies — or they could be euthanized. Genuine sanctuaries, on the other hand, do not allow any contact between visitors and exotic animals.
Thankfully, Instagram has acknowledged that taking selfies with exotic creatures has more negative effects than positive ones, and the social media site now warns users when they submit pictures with the hashtags #tigerselfie or even #blackjaguarwhitetiger.
Instagram prohibits the cruelty of animals and the selling of endangered animals or their components, according to the message.
Yet other social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter still allow users to post wild animal selfies.
“Our love for selfies has changed the lives of wild animals forever — the explosive trend on social media is driving the suffering and exploitation of some of the world’s most iconic animals,” Koenen said. “So it’s heartbreaking to see yet another celebrity posing with a wild animal and further fueling this suffering.”