Late last night I read about tigers and monks over on the Worst Horse, but it wasn’t till this morning when I read the UBA blog that I noticed that this temple is a Dhammayutt temple! What a timely coincidence. This story has been getting a lot of press, and fortunately it looks like Phil Ryan is kindly keeping track of it over at Tricycle Blog, thus saving me plenty of time chasing “tiger and monk” stories over the Buddhist blogosphere.
The name of the temple is Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno, which leapt off the page at me because this temple shares its name with perhaps the most famous and charismatic living Dhammayutt teacher in the Thai forest tradition, also known as Ajahn Maha Bua. (Wat Pa means “forest monastery,” and luangta is a name of high respect for an old monk.) Apparently he founded the temple in the mid 90’s. There is naturally both great respect and also some controversy surrounding Ajahn Maha Bua — some even claim that he brought down the Thai government (in 2001).
But back to tigers… Over on the Huffington Post and other blogs, the focus is on the eye-catching photos of monks and tigers sitting side by side. This all misses the original controversy in the ABC article, where various conservationists accuse the temple of drugging the tigers (the temple and its workers strongly deny this), or of raising tigers out of their natural habitat.
It’s worth reading to make up your own mind. Are these monks secretly giving tigers sedatives and lying to the press about it? Is it right to raise these tigers in captivity? What are the alternatives? If you would like to support Wat Pa Luangta Bua’s tigers, you can learn more about the program and donate through Walking with Tigers.
Update: Jane Telford posted a comment to the corresponding post on the Tricycle Blog. It contained significant criticism, and I’m reposting it here because I feel the resources she linked to contained the most objective criticism that I’ve seen on the net (much of the other criticism is knee-jerk emotional).
With regards to the notorious Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi, Thailand: Following repeated complaints from tourists and volunteers working at the temple about tigers being shockingly mistreated there, Care for the Wild International (CWI) undertook an intensive two year investigation. The resulting CWI report reveals illegal wildlife trade, animal cruelty, false conservation claims and visitor safety risks at the Temple.
You can read the report at:http://www.careforthewild.com/projects.asp?detail=true&I_ID=580&mypage=Reports
You can view the letter sent by the International Tiger Coalition to the Thai authorities protesting about the Tiger temple here:
This issue has widespread media coverage:
CWI’s press release – “Illegal tiger trade, cruelty and human health hazards at famous tourist destination”:
“Black market tigers linked to Thai Temple, Reports says”
National Geographic News, 20 June 2008: