MSU Animal Welfare Clinic Seeks Change for Tigers

Today’s world faces the Earth’s sixth mass extinction: experts project that 75% of our remaining animal species will be extinct within the next three generations. To put that in perspective, the last mass extinction was during the era of the dinosaurs.

Specifically, the population of wild tigers has decreased from 100,000 to about 3,000 in the last century. Professor Carney Anne Nasser, who directs the Animal Welfare Clinic at MSU Law, and her students have been working to change legislation surrounding the crisis of breeding tigers in captivity, noting the serious issues it is causing for the future of the species.

Not only has the clinic deployed legal strategies to make it more difficult for roadside zoos and backyard breeders to exploit tigers here in the United States, clinicians have set their sights on imposing consequences on the country that has the most robust market for tiger parts in the world: China. Indeed, the country has the largest market for trafficked wildlife products. It is known for creating exceptions and legal loopholes to validate their actions. Tigers are bred in captivity and when the animals are no longer useful to their needs they find another way to get rid of them or utilize their parts, often resulting in illegal trade on the black market or the animal’s death. They claim that “tiger farming for parts alleviates pressures on wild populations,” but Professor Nasser, her students, and other experts observe that it just offers an incentive for poaching, while continuing to deplete the remaining population in the wild.

Professor Nasser acknowledges the United States’ own setbacks and failures regarding proper regulation and laws addressing captive tigers. She explains that there are currently four US states that do not have any license or permit requirements for private possession of exotic animals – and in states that do regulate certain standards, legal loopholes are just as common.

On May 11, 2018, the Animal Welfare Clinic submitted a proposed resolution “to impose, inter alia, sanctions on countries that farm tigers for the parts trade.” Later that year, in November, the clinic submitted public comments on their resolution with support from reputable non-governmental organizations – such as WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society, Four Paws International, Big Cat Rescue, the Wildcat Sanctuary, and others. CITES, a multilateral treaty protecting endangered plants and animals, posted an agenda after India also submitted a similar proposal echoing the concerns made in the clinic’s proposal on January 21, 2019.

Professor Nasser will represent MSU Law at the CITES Conference in May in Sri Lanka, where she plans to address the state of wild tigers and present MSU’s findings and proposal.