‘I can carve my initials in their side’: New PETA video shows questionable training practices at Bowmanville Zoo
TORONTO — Animal rights group PETA has released new video of the owner of the Bowmanville Zoo discussing how he trains his animals, and one animal expert is speaking out.
The hidden camera video appears to show Michael Hackenberger discussing using a whip on his animals and he can be heard saying he can use it to ” carve my initials in their side.”
Hackenberger goes on to explain what he believes works when training tigers.
“When you have a big group you have to be able to, specifically, catch that tiger on the ear from here,” he explains, while pointing across the ring.
There are also scenes with Hackenberger speaking about the treatment of wolves.
“You smack ’em and they generally fold like a house of cards,” he is heard saying.
He also seems to sum up his training philosophy, adding that “at the end of the day it’s only through disincentives that you can absolutely force an animal to do something.”
But there are plenty of animal trainers who disagree.
Margaret Whittaker, an animal behaviour consultant with Active Environments, contradicted the idea that negative reinforcement is a good training tool with animals.
“No. absolutely not,” Whittaker told Global News via Skype.
“All of the training that we do with any species of wild animal is strictly through positive reinforcement
She has experience training a wide variety of large animals and oversaw transporting three elephants from the Toronto Zoo to a sanctuary in California.
“It’s my job as the trainer to engage and motivate the animal to voluntarily participate,” she said.
Hackenberger has not responded to interview requests, but after a similar video was released in December he put out a rebuttal video of his own, calling PETA “zealots.”
“All they want to do is get their perverted and twisted message out there,” said Hackenberger during his half hour long explanation.
One of his tigers appeared in the award winning movie, “Life of Pi” and Fox has not responded to a request for comment.
The OSPCA says it already had the additional footage and its part of their ongoing investigation.
When he knows the cameras are on, Hackenberger has shown his softer side, but in the hidden video says there are some animals he won’t work with because they are too “soft.”
“They are just, ‘when’s this f—-r going to kill me?’ Because they pick up on this persona.”
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