"Tatort: ​​The Night of the Commissars": How realistic are German tiger farms?

"Tatort: ​​The Night of the Commissars" (June 18, Das Erste) is about the supposedly bizarre case of a Swabian pig farmer's family that gets embroiled in criminal machinations by breeding tigers in addition to pigs and selling their parts after slaughter.

"Tatort: ​​The Night of the Commissars": How realistic are German tiger farms?

"Tatort: ​​The Night of the Commissars" (June 18, Das Erste) is about the supposedly bizarre case of a Swabian pig farmer's family that gets embroiled in criminal machinations by breeding tigers in addition to pigs and selling their parts after slaughter.

This plot is unrealistic only at first glance. As Wolfgang Stauch (55), screenwriter of this Stuttgart "crime scene", reports when asked by spot on news, he came up with the idea for the tiger breeding scenario after hearing about a real case of a tiger slaughterhouse discovered in 2018 nearby the Czech capital Prague. In addition to the animals killed, skins, claws and processed products such as tiger bouillon and so-called "tiger wine" were also confiscated during a raid. Another source of inspiration was the current crisis in German pig farmers, about which there are also numerous reports in the media.

The fact check on the Stuttgart crime scene:

Due to habitat destruction and poaching, the number of wild tigers has shrunk dramatically over the past 100 years. According to the animal and nature conservation organization "Pro Wildlife", compared to around 100,000 specimens in 1920, there are now only around 3,200 adult tigers in the wild. As a result, the tiger is now on the Red List of Endangered Species and the trade in tigers and tiger products has been banned internationally.

Despite this, the black market for products derived from the majestic big cats is thriving. According to the animal protection organization "Four Paws", between 1999 and 2017, 8,278 tiger products such as tiger stock cubes, teeth and claws as well as 57 live tigers were confiscated in the EU.

The components of the big cats are particularly popular in Asian countries such as China and Vietnam, where they still play a major role in traditional medicine. As the "National Geographic" reports, the bones of the tiger are used to make medicinal pastes or so-called "tiger wine". Skins are used for decorative purposes such as carpets or wall hangings, while teeth and claws are used in the jewelry industry.

The tigers are not only brought onto the market by poachers, in many countries veritable tiger farms are flourishing, in which the animals are usually raised under cruel conditions and then slaughtered. As media reports show, such illegal farms can now be found not only in Asia but also in Europe. Indications of this are not only provided by tiger products repeatedly intercepted by customs. As "The Guardian" reports, for example, a tiger farm was dug up in a major raid near the Czech capital of Prague in 2018.

An official statement from the Customs Service of the Czech Republic said: "The organized criminal group produced traditional Asian medicines, which are very popular with the Vietnamese community and therefore spread not only in the Czech Republic but also in other countries of the EU and Vietnam Selling easily in Asia.The demand for these products is very high because of the belief in their extraordinary healing powers, which is in line with the deep-rooted Asian tradition.The price of a kilogram of tiger bones is around US$2,000, and a tiger skin is around US$20,000 -dollars and for tiger wine to 100 US dollars per liter on the black market."

In view of the current dramatic situation in this area of ​​the agricultural industry, it does not seem unreasonable that German pig farmers could come up with the idea of ​​keeping their heads above water by illegally breeding big cats. As the trade journal "Agrarheute" reports, the industry is currently in the worst crisis in decades. Between November 2021 and November 2022 alone, around ten percent of German pig farmers gave up because they could no longer survive economically from their previous job.

There are many reasons for this: On the one hand, pig farmers are finding fewer and fewer buyers for their products. This is only partially related to a general decline in meat consumption in European countries. The fact that, against the background of swine fever, large customers such as China and South Korea banned the import of German pork between 2020 and 2023 had a much greater impact.

At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic ensured that restaurants remained closed for a long period of time, which also reduced the German sales market. The situation has been further dramatized since the beginning of 2022 by the outbreak of war in Ukraine, which led to an explosion in the cost of energy and grain used for animal feed.

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