I like to believe that animal abuse in film and television is a thing of the past, but it isn't. In a recent essay called "'No Animals Were Harmed,' Not So Even with AHA 'Oversight'" I reported on well-documented abuse in Hollywood and that the phrase "No Animals Were Harmed" is a myth.
Just this week a number of people sent me two essays published in Mother Jones magazine on animal abuse at Animal Planet (Discovery Communications). The first, called "Drugs, Death, Neglect: Behind the Scenes at Animal Planet" by James West, reported on the abuse of three raccoon stars of Animal Planet's hit show "Call of the Wildman" and other animals used in other shows. And, in addition to their horrific mistreatment, there is also evidence that this show and others are fabricated -- manufactured and staged -- and even "fake animal droppings using Nutella, Snickers bars, and rice."
Mr. West's essay is worth a careful read and a brief summary can be found here in which it is noted, "West’s seven-month investigation, which drew on internal documents, interviews with sources closely involved with the show’s production (who risked up to $1 million in damages for breaching their confidentiality agreements) and government documents, exposes a culture far from the animal-loving ethos promoted by the program." In addition to the abuse of the raccoons, a drugged zebra was used in another Animal Planet episode "to get it to be less crazy”.
It is essential that people not only know about the wanton abuse of nonhuman animal stars but also what they are seeing isn't a true story. An "Ethics Hotline" for Discovery Communications can be seen here and their viewer relations department can be contacted here.
Marc Bekoff's latest books are Jasper's story: Saving moon bears (with Jill Robinson; see also), Ignoring nature no more: The case for compassionate conservation (see also), and Why dogs hump and bees get depressed (see also).