Zoo lets visitors play tug-of-war with lions, tigers

A group of Brits play tug-of-war with a lion.
A group of Brits play tug-of-war with a lion. Photo credit: Twitter / jayalex87

An English zoo that inspired a Hollywood film is under fire for letting customers play tug-of-war with big cats.

For £15, visitors can play the former Olympic sport against Jasiri, a lion, or Dragan, a tiger, at Dartmoor Zoo.

The attraction was launched a few weeks ago, but already thousands have signed a petition against it.

"It's cruel and shows a total lack of respect for these beautiful majestic wild animals," organiser Sue Dally wrote on petition site 38 Degrees.

"It feels like we're going backwards - the zoo is acting more like a circus rather than somewhere that really cares about the health and safety of the endangered animals in their captivity."

But Benjamin Mee, who bought the zoo in 2006, says the 'human vs beast' challenge says it's all a "fuss about nothing".

"I think this is 100 percent the right thing to be doing - the lion loves it," he told Plymouth Live, claiming it was nowhere near as "gruesome" or exhausting as what they'd be doing in the wild.

"I will not be persuaded not to do the activity unless someone provides me with evidence against it," he told the paper. "And I would be amazed at that."

The funds he says will be spent on upgrading the animals' enclosures.

Mr Mee's memoir on his experience of buying a zoo was loosely adapted into 2011's Cameron Crowe-directed hit We Bought a Zoo.