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A new petition urging congress to pass legislation that would protect big cats has won support from numerous animal advocates* including Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, and Edie Falco.

The online petition, which calls on congress to pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act, was co-authored by Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite and national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund.

If passed, the legislation would help to end the abuse of tigers and big cats across the U.S. by prohibiting the private ownership of big cats, direct public contact, and dangerous interactions with big cats such as cub petting.

‘Forceful separation’

According to the petition: “Big cat owners and operations that breed tigers forcefully separate newborn cubs from their mothers – sometimes within minutes of birth – to use them in expensive photo opportunities with tourists.

“Because cubs can only be ‘handled’ for a few months, drugging tigers to be compliant and docile is commonplace. When they get too old and their existence is no longer profitable, they are often irresponsibly sold into the pet trade or killed.”

Tiger King

In a statement sent to Plant Based News, Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite discussed how recent Netflix smash hit Tiger King has put the plight of captive big cats under the spotlight.

“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,” she said.

“But at some point, there is a pivot and the passion of their millions of viewers lands somewhere useful. 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.”

‘A cultural phenomenon’

“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,” added Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells.

“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.”

You can find out more about the petition here

*The full list of celebrities to sign onto the petition include: Kate Mara, Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix, Edie Falco, Iggy Pop, 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.