Tiger Export Permits Bring PETA’s Claws Out

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Wildlife regulators dished out 15 illegal permits that let a circus company export endangered tigers to Canada, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals claims in court.
     The complaint accuses the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of failing to release information regarding the permits and of violating the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
     PETA says the government issued 15 permits to the Hawthorn Corp. for the export and re-import of endangered tigers to be used in Canadian circus performances.
     “The Fish and Wildlife Service is rubber-stamping animal-export permit applications and ignoring the protections put in place for endangered species,” PETA official Delcianna Winders said in a statement. “Exporting endangered tigers in order to force them to perform in circuses suggests that these protected animals are nothing more than a sideshow attraction.”
     By issuing the permits, the service illegally waived “the requirement that the permitted activity directly enhances the survival of the species in the wild … thereby issuing ESA permits to Hawthorn for the exclusive purpose of export for circus exhibitions,” PETA claims.
     The complaint adds: “Rather than requiring Hawthorn to demonstrate that the activity for which the company sought permits would directly enhance the survival of the tigers in the wild, defendants accepted Hawthorn’s vague promise of future contributions to a conservation program, essentially allowing Hawthorn to purchase permits.”
     Exporting any endangered animal is expressly forbidden under the ESA unless such movement enhances the species’ survival in the wild, PETA claims.
     The complaint highlights Hawthorn’s “sordid history” of alleged Animal Welfare Act violations, which it says have cost the company $272,500 in penalties.
     “Hawthorn’s past AWA violations include forcing tigers to live in cages barely bigger than their bodies for months on end, failing to provide tigers with adequate veterinary care, and forcing animals to eat moldy food,” PETA claims.
     Though PETA opposed the permits in public comments, the service allegedly ignored it and “improperly guided Hawthorn through submission of a Pay-to-Play proposal.”
     The group says the service’s actions constitute a violation of both the ESA and the Administrative Procedure Act.
     It wants a court order forcing FWS to amend the permits, creating terms that will bring the animals back to the United States within 10 days of the order. It also wants the government to seize the animals and force Hawthorn to pay civil penalties.
     Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is also named as a defendant.
     PETA is represented by Jeffrey Kerr.

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