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Gunther Gebel-Williams: Famous Animal Trainer  "Loved" the Animals He Abused

July 27, 2001

I don't know whether to laugh or to cry.

Here is a heading from the newsstand version of the obituary of recently deceased, prominent circus animal trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams:

A claw-scarred face, missing teeth and an unconditional love for big cats.

Let's see now, he loved these animals unconditionally, but they don't seem to have felt quite the same way about him.

His original teeth and their replacements were knocked out more than once. His face had been scratched so much by the claws of huge cats that his lips were covered with lumpy scars that in cold weather sometimes made it nearly impossible for him to speak.

Could it have anything to do with the fact that he "taught"

lions to ride on the backs of skittish horses, leopards to jump through flaming hoops held by the gleaming teeth of tigers, and elephants to take calm, leisurely walks through roaring traffic in the nation's busiest cities...

Could it have anything to do with the fact that despite his reputation as a trainer who didn't use force (and who knows if that is even true), he somehow forced these animals into acting in ways diametrically opposed to their most basic instincts? 

He loved these animals so much, but he was comfortable with the fact that in the 23+ hours a day they were not performing, the animals were kept in tiny cages, or chained to the ground.  They were denied the ability to perform virtually any of the activities that millions of years of evolution had hard-wired into these animals, including their needs to exercise, roam, forage, play, socialize and mate. [more info]

But he "loved" these animals -- "unconditionally" yet -- according to the newspaper. 

I don't know whether to laugh or to cry. 

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

More on the Gebel-Williams Family

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