Do People Eat Tigers?

Do People Eat Tigers?

Tigers are known for their strength and their beautiful fur pattern, but not necessarily for the delicious taste of their meat. Or are they? Humans are not known to shy away from consuming any animal, no matter how outlandish the idea might seem at first. Do people eat tigers? 

Technically, it is illegal to kill tigers, since they are endangered. Unfortunately, issues of legality rarely prevent humans from following their desires, and if one really wants to try the taste of a tiger, there are opportunities for this. In short: yes, people eat tigers, but they shouldn’t. 

In China, rich business people do not only eat tigers, but they also congregate at parties where they can first watch this majestic animal get slaughtered and then dine on it. This is, of course, not legal, which is why such events are usually kept secret and have usually been found out when inebriated guests thoughtlessly posted incriminating pictures on social media. 

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While it is illegal to kill and eat tigers, it is not illegal to sell parts of them after they have died of natural causes – a loophole that the breeders on tiger farms freely make use of. Often, Chinese officials can also be bribed with tiger parts, which are of extremely high value.

In Chinese medicine, tigers stand for courage and strength, and consuming parts of these animals is said to assist with various ills. Most valuable with regards to this are probably tiger bones, which are said to have anti-inflammatory qualities. While China’s State Council banned medicine containing tiger bones in 1993, this has only made them rarer and thus more valuable and a jin of tiger bone, which is just over a pound, can cost 1,000 dollars.

A 500ml bottle of wine steeped in tiger bone can even cost 16,000 dollars. With prices like this, tiger products are not mere medicine or delicatessen, they are a status symbol, which makes them all the more attractive to those who can afford them. 

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Are Tigers Stronger than Lions? 

The two most beloved big cats, the king of the jungle and the king of the tundra. Who would win in a fight? 

While both are of almost equal size, the tiger has a significant advantage in muscle mass. Tigers can weigh up to 800 pounds and lions only about 550 pounds – and it is not fat we are talking about here! Pitting lions and tigers against each other has been a popular pastime since Ancient Rome, and most records, as well as paintings depicting scenes like this, show the tiger as the winner.

Do People Eat Tigers?

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Aside from their strength, they also have a more serious and aggressive fighting style. Craig Saffoe, who works at the Smithsonian Zoo in Washington, D.C., explains that in his experience, lions are more into play fights, tigers are ruthless and go directly in for the kill. This is exemplified, for example, by an event in the Ankara Zoo in Turkey, 2011. Here, a tiger managed to slip into the lion enclosure and severed the lion’s jugular vein with just one stroke. 

These examples stem from staged fights and animals in captivity, and in the wild lions have an advantage that must not be underestimated: lions live in prides while tigers are solitary animals. And in a face-off with 2 to 4 lions, a single tiger would not have it as easy, no matter how muscular, strong, and determined to kill. 

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Why Do Tigers Have Stripes? 

Tiger eating meat
Tiger eating meat

Tigers mostly hunt at dusk or dawn, and in the low light, they are almost invisible when lurking between trees or in the high grass. While tigers, as apex predators – which means that they are at the top of the food chain – do not have to hide from other predators, they need to be camouflaged so that they can sneak up close to their prey.

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For us humans it sounds strange to describe an orange animal hiding between green plants as “almost invisible”, but not all animals are able to perceive the same range of colors. Luckily for tigers, deer, and other hooved animals only have very limited color vision, so to them, a tiger appears green and is almost impossible to detect amidst the vegetation. 

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Adrian Volenik

I've lived around animals my whole life and I hold a Diploma in Animal Physiology. When I'm not reading or writing about wild animals, health and fitness, and technology, you can find me playing with my son and two cats. My pastimes include running, playing video games, and solving the NY Times crossword.

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