Chantelle Houghton speaks out after surprise appearance in Tiger King

'People can see how cruel it is to keep exotic animals captive'

chantelle houghton

by Lily Smith |
Updated on

Animal lover Chantelle Houghton tells Closer why there’s so much work to be done and how people can help big cats in captivity.

She says, “The documentary is absolutely nuts. No wild animal should be locked up in a cage and paraded around for people to gawp at. But I’m really glad it’s opened up the conversation about animals in captivity, and I hope it helps change the world and how people feel.

“I feel privileged to have been featured. I did that campaign with PETA in 2011, where I stood outside the Houses Of Parliament dressed as a tiger to raise awareness of the cruelty of keeping tigers in zoos or circuses.”

chantelle houghton
Chantelle protesting for PETA ©Getty Images

Mum-of-one Chantelle, 36 – who rose to fame on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006, and who last week announcedshe’d got engaged to her boyfriend, though is keeping his identity a secret – has always felt strongly about the welfare of animals, becoming vegetarian at 11 years old.

She says, “I watched a documentary about animal cruelty at school, and it stuck with me. I’ve not eaten meat since that day, and I’ve been vegan for the last five years.

“Animal cruelty is something that I genuinely think about every day and it horrifies me. I’ve done multiple campaigns with PETA over the years and I think they’re brilliant for shocking people with statistics and making them want to help.”

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chantelle houghton
Chantelle back in 2011 ©Getty Images

Chantelle says that having always felt strongly against zoos and circuses, she jumped at the chance to team up with PETA to do a campaign about big cat captivity – and that watching Tiger King has stirred up those feelings.

She says, “It’s absolutely disgusting that there are more tigers living in captivity than living in their natural habitats. They are wild animals – they weren’t put on Earth to live in cages. There was a news story a while back about a zookeeper who was killed by a lion when he was in its cage. It sounds harsh, but of course a wild animal can kill a human, what do you expect? It’s their instinct.

chantelle houghton
Chantelle in 2013 ©Getty Images

“Watching Tiger King made me so angry. I will say, in Joe’s defence, that I think he does love his animals – but he just can’t see the hypocrisy in how terribly he’s treating them by keeping them locked in cages and parading them around for people to take pictures with. It’s crazy that this is still allowed to happen.”

Closer magazine
©Closer magazine

Since 2011, when Chantelle did the campaign, the problem of big cats in captivity has been ongoing – but there was progress when, in January this year, the use of wild animals in circuses was banned in the UK.

But Chantelle insists that there need to be more laws passed about the owning of wild animals globally, and that we can all help to make changes.

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She says, “There’s a lot of work to be done. Until the ownership of wild animals is made illegal across the globe, it will keep happening. What we at home can do is to boycott zoos and animal parks around the world. If we stop going, there’ll be less of a demand and they won’t be able to stay open.

“Yes, it’s amazing to see big cats up close, but we have one glimpse of them and then go on with our free lives. They are locked up 24/7 and it’s just not fair. They don’t belong there and they’re not for our entertainment.

“I hope that in my lifetime I see all zoos and animal parks close, and no more captivity. Things have got to change.”

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