A Hollywood animal trainer known for his work with exotic creatures behind the scenes of movies including “Life of Pi” and “The Interview” was allegedly caught on camera whipping and cursing at a tiger.
Michael Hackenberger denied claims of cruelty after video released by animal rights group PETA showed him lashing a young Siberian tiger up to 20 times on his face and body at Bowmanville Zoo in Canada, where he serves as director.
“You f****** piece of f******,” Hackenberger can be heard saying as he apparently goes after the tiger named Uno during a training session, the secret recording revealed.
The tiger can be seen falling onto its side and rolling over on his back, an action PETA described as “expressing his anal glands during the beating—a fear response in big cats.”
“Cause I like hitting him in the face. And the paws, which got the paws off. And with the beauty of the paws being on the, rock, when you him, it’s like a vice,” Hackenberger says later in the video. “It stings more.”
Hackenberger, who has previously faced backlash for calling a baboon a "c*** sucker" on live television, continues in the footage: “But here’s the problem at the end of the day. If we'd been running a video tape the whole time you were here, and you did a 45-second montage of the times I struck this animal, um, PETA would burn this place to the ground.”
Hackenberger responded to PETA’s allegations, saying in a YouTube video that “the images captured are misrepresented by PETA, and I would go so far as to say they're lying.”
He apologized for his language in the video, which he called an “atrocious” problem that he has had in the past, but denied any other wrongdoing.
“I got him twice there but then after that, every blow or every whip of the whip you see, I do not strike the animal,” he said.
A tiger and woman who Hackenberger said were the same that were featured in PETA’s video sat nearby as he went on to whip the ground.
“If I had been striking that tiger during that sequence (filmed), this tiger would not be laying there. For too long, we have allowed PETA to interpret the actions of animals for us. We’re not going to do that today. We’re going to let the animal tell the story. And the story that this animal is telling us right now,” he said.
“I do not strike him, I strike the ground beside him,” he continued.
PETA said it sent the entire video of the incident to the Ontario SPCA, which confirmed it is investigating.
“PETA’s eyewitness footage confirms that Michael Hackenberger uses violence and physical domination, and he needs to be stopped,” Brittany Peet, PETA Foundation Deputy Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement, said in a statement.
“You should no more whip a young tiger than a young child—it’s out of line and, we believe, outside the law.”