After ‘Tiger King,’ Celebrities Rally Around Passage of Big Cat Public Safety Act

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After Netflix’s docu-series “Tiger King” became a phenomenon that essentially broke the internet in recent weeks, celebrities are rallying around a federal bill that would protect the kind of big cats that are featured in the show.

Gabriela Cowperthwaite, who directed the eye-opening 2013 documentary “Blackfish” that exposed the maltreatment of aquatic dwellers held captive in SeaWorld, has penned a petition alongside the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Her plea, which has been backed by the likes of Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, Edie Falco and Iggy Pop, is in support of a federal bill called the Big Cat Public Safety Act.

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“Documentaries can be powerful forces for change, sometimes through a call to action and other times simply by telling a story that entertains, creating a window into a world viewers weren’t previously aware of,” Cowperthwaite said in a statement. “But at some point, there is a pivot and the passion of their millions of viewers lands somewhere useful.”

She continued, “‘Tiger King’ and its audience can do that now. The world of big cat captivity requires a call to action, and I’m encouraged that through this partnership with the Animal Legal Defense Fund and support for our petition by the entertainment industry, we may see enough pressure lead to the passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act.”

“Tiger King” features Joe Exotic and his crew tending to hundreds of exotic animals, interviewing other colorful figures in the world of big cats like Carole Baskin and Doc Antle. There are currently more tigers living in captivity the U.S. than in the wild, and the petition highlights the dangers of keeping these animals in cages. Those actions can forcefully separate newborn cubs from their mothers to drugging tigers to be “compliant and docile,” eventually killing or selling the tigers into pet trade when they are “no longer profitable.”

“Netflix’s docuseries ‘Tiger King’ has become a cultural phenomenon since it was released and has made big cats — and those who abuse them — a popular topic of conversation,” Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells said. “It’s important for us to move beyond the characters in the series and use this moment to put real pressure on our elected officials so meaningful change can be made to protect lions and tigers, and other big cats, many of whom are members of endangered species.”

The “Big Cat Safety Act” first hit the House in 2019 with little traction. As of now, Nevada, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Alabama have no regulations in regards to the ownership of tigers and lions. If “The Big Cat Public Safety Act” passes, owners of big cats would require a USDA license.

Other celebrities who have signed onto the petition include Kate Mara, Ireland Baldwin, Kim Basinger, Ruby Rose, Paul Wesley, Christian Serratos, Nikki Reed, Ian Somerhalder, Teresa Palmer, Glenn Close, Anjelica Huston, Justin Theroux, Christopher Walken, Mena Suvari, Steve Aoki, Alan Cumming, Ed Begley, Alison Pill, Jane Lynch, Kate del Castillo, Olivia Wilde, Jackson Galaxy, Charlotte Ross, Kristin Bauer, Sarah Silverman, Whitney Cummings, and Jenny Slate.

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