Animal welfare

Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell slammed by animal welfare chiefs after tiger standoff

Ben Chilwell, who was part of England’s squad for the European Championships last summer, has been criticized for taking part in a ‘tiger tug’ while on holiday.

Ben Chilwell was filmed fighting with a caged tiger in an organized ‘tug of war’

Chelsea and England defender Ben Chilwell has come under fire from animal welfare chiefs after he and a group of friends got into a tussle with a tiger.

The footage of Chilwell’s actions comes just months after his former Blues teammate Kurt Zouma was filmed kicking his cat. West Ham defender Zouma and his brother Yoan – who plays for Dagenham & Redbridge – have both faced widespread criticism for their actions.

Chilwell’s tug of war is said to have been part of a “tiger tug” – an attraction offered by a theme park in America, with The Sun obtaining footage of the act. However, despite being a curated attraction, critics have pointed to the England international’s lack of respect for the animal.

Chilwell was absent in Florida during the international break while recovering from injury. The 25-year-old suffered from a knee problem before the start of the year, and Chelsea confirmed in December that he would miss the second half of the season due to surgery on his ACL injury.

Animal charity, the RSPCA, meanwhile criticized the act in which Chilwell allegedly took part. “We do not believe this activity promotes respect for these wild animals and should not be marketed for public entertainment,” the group said.

“Zoos often state that their goal is to educate the public and positively influence visitor behavior in a way that will directly benefit conservation. While we understand that zoos doing this may feel like a ‘tug of war’ provides physical enrichment to big cats, there are many other ways to do this,” reads a statement from the charity.

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Chilwell is recovering from a serious knee injury
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While some fans on social media criticized Chilwell for his actions, others took aim at the venue for offering the attraction. ‘If there’s any harm in this tiger it’s definitely not by Ben Chilwell,’ said one, while another said ‘Challenge the zoo, not the player’.

Chilwell, who joined the Blues from Leicester City in 2020, was part of Gareth Southgate’s England squad for Euro 2020 but did not play at the tournament. “The way I try to look at it, I was disappointed not to play in such massive competition in England – I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed,” he said.

Chelsea confirmed in December that he was at risk of missing the remainder of the season due to ACL surgery. He had scored four times for club and country before picking up the injury, but has not featured since the Blues’ Champions League group stage win over Juventus in November.

* A previous version of this article reported that Chilwell’s ‘tiger tug of war’ was filmed at an attraction offered by Busch Gardens in Florida. We have since been informed that the video was not taken at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and confirmed that Tug of War was not available at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. We are happy to clarify this and have amended the article accordingly.

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