Britain’s Tiger Kings review: Ross Kemp is like a bald, less guileful version of Louis Theroux

Britain’s Tiger Kings review: Ross Kemp is like a bald, less guileful version of Louis Theroux

Britain’s Tiger Kings review: Ross Kemp is like a bald, less guileful version of Louis Theroux

Britain’s Tiger Kings review: Ross Kemp is like a bald, less guileful version of Louis Theroux

Ross Kemp has done an excellent job in transforming himself from frowning soap hard-man to frowning documentary hard-man, and I think we can all congratulate him on that. His latest venture, Britain’s Tiger Kings on ITV, involves him meeting those unusual people whose idea of getting a lockdown pet is to acquire a “cackle” of hyenas (the correct collective noun), a tiger cub, or maybe some lions.

Like a bald, less guileful version of Louis Theroux, Kemp engages them in conversation, tries not to make value judgements about their cruel, idiotic behaviour, and draws out some of the contradictions in their beliefs.

There’s a bloke in Nottinghamshire, for example, who insists on keeping two lions and a puma in his back garden. It’s a big back garden, I’ll grant you – his home being what the estate agents would call “set in its own grounds” – but not, on the other hand, Kruger National Park big. The two-year-old lion and lioness are confined to a small (but legal) cage some of the time, which doesn’t look very comfortable.

Reece Oliver, a wealthy chap who can afford the meat bills, asks the growling big cats why on earth they’re “so grumpy” on such a nice day. Imagining myself as Doctor Dolittle for a moment, I could almost hear their response: “Because we’re wild animals cooped up in a sodding rabbit hutch, or hadn’t you noticed?” To be fair, Oliver wants a bigger compound, but his property borders the M1, so it’s a bit tricky. And just imagine a big cat on the hard shoulder.

The rationale for keeping such beasts is rehearsed by each of the owners in the film, their captives ranging from penguins to brown bears to tigers to – God help us – tapirs. They say the animals are captive bred, so they don’t know any different (yet their instincts remain, of course). That big cats couldn’t survive in the wild because they don’t know how to hunt (true, but begs a few other questions). That the species is endangered, and they have to live in captivity because they’d get shot in the wild (debatable). “Anyone can buy a Rolex or another silly Bentley to sit on the drive,” one of them argues. “You can’t go to Tesco and buy a tiger.”


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