defender Ben Chilwell has been criticised by animal welfare groups after he played tug of war with a tiger at a zoo in Florida.
The England international is currently sidelined for the rest of the season after he required knee surgery in December.
Footage obtained by shows Chilwell at the front of a four-person team which is pulling on a rope, while a caged tiger is tugging in the opposite direction.
Chilwell is heard in the video saying, ‘she doesn’t have much grip does she?’ before the tiger pulls the rope and the team shifts closer towards the cage. The Chelsea defender then says, ‘oh no, she’s not playing any more’.
The video has been heavily criticised by the RSPCA, who claim that the tug of war should not be classed as ‘physical enrichment’ for tigers.
‘We don’t feel this activity promotes respect for these wild animals and should not be marketed for public entertainment,’ a statement from the RSPCA read.
‘Zoos often state that their aim is to educate the public and have a positive influence on visitor behaviour in ways that will directly benefit conservation.
‘While we understand zoos which do this may feel that a ‘tug-of-war’ provides physical enrichment for big cats, there are many alternative ways of doing this.’
A source, who shared the video with the newspaper, said: ‘It’s animal abuse.
‘They’re not treating the tiger with respect. It’s just fun to them.’
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