Animals WERE Harmed In The Making Of This Film

Over 600 hundred people have complained about the recent animal killings in Channel 4’s The Island With Bear Grylls, which sees male and female contestants stranded on separate remote islands in the Pacific and left to fend for themselves.

Channel 4 received 450 complaints, mostly to do with the broadcast of contestants killing and eating several pigs, and a separate episode in which contestants killed and ate a crocodile. The croc turned out to be a rare and endangered species, not usually found in that area. Channel claim this was a genuine mistake and have promised to replace the American crocodile.

A further 185 complaints were directed to Ofcom, which is considering whether to launch an investigation into the animal murders.

PETA has criticised the programme’s apparent use of animal cruelty to boost ratings.

“Killing animals is a cheap ratings ploy and sends an especially harmful message to young viewers, who are greatly influenced by what they see on TV. Bear Grylls and the producers should be prosecuted. Fame doesn’t mean immunity.”

Animal abuse and even murder has a long and sickening history in TV and cinema, but these days audiences are wise to it and rightly outraged. This list talks about some of the most famous examples of how animals were harmed in the making of this film, including the notorious ritual slaughter of a water buffalo in Apocalypse Now.

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Sandra The Orangutan And Her Human Rights

Buenos Aires Zoo has yet another high-profile resident, in addition to Arturo the depressed polar bear.

The Association of Professional Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) will soon make their case in court on behalf on Sandra the shy Sumatran orangutan, and they will use the habeas corpus law to argue that the great ape has been illegally detained and deprived of her dignity and liberty.

Sandra was born in captivity in Germany and transferred to the zoo in Argentina, where she has been living for the past two decades. Her enclosure is currently being renovated on the advice of vets who recommend more environmental enrichment. Activists argue that her shyness is a sign of depression, this others have argued that shy behaviour is typical of orangutans.

A court ruling in December granted Sandra the possibility of limited human rights as a “non-human person” because she has cognitive abilities. An Argentinian judge is set to rule this week whether or not Sandra’s human rights are infringed by her captivity in the zoo, and the judge will also consider whether her restricted freedom is a form of maltreatment.

If the judge rules in favour of Sandra’s release, she could be transferred to an animal sanctuary, which would offer her more freedom, though it is unlikely she will be released into the wild, having never set foot in the Sumatran jungle before.

Sandra will not be appearing in court, obviously, but I will keep you updated of developments. These are exciting times in the animal rights movement – Sandra’s possible release could pave the way for other primates to be granted legal personhood. I recently blogged about Hercules and Leo, two chimpanzees fighting for their human rights.

You can read more about the Nonhuman Rights Project here.

Summer Project: 30 Days Wild

In June, I will be taking part in the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild project, which aims to engage with nature by suggesting Random Acts of Wildness every day for a month.

Make room for nature this June – no matter where you are or how busy your life! Make this the month when you do something wild every day – and let us motivate you! When you sign up to our challenge, we’ll send you a pack full of encouragement, ideas and Random Acts of Wildness. You’ll also receive a funky wallchart to track your progress, a wild badge, and regular blasts of inspiration throughout June straight to your inbox to help you
make nature part of your life
.

Sadly my local Norfolk landscapes look nothing like this…

Who’s Looking Out For Animals In This Election?

* Guest blog post from Politics student James Craske *

Animal Rights. Where do the parties stand?

Human concern for animal welfare stretches back a long way. Despite the regular news of animal abuse, we have come a long way from the prevailing attitude of the Ancient Greeks that animals do not possess reason, to the recent court ruling that temporarily granted chimpanzees legal rights to personhood. Throughout the 20th century, activists have made gains in ensuring that animal health and welfare now finds itself a place in all the major political parties’ manifestos.

But what pledges have they made this coming 2015 general election?

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Labour Party

The last Labour government oversaw the first Hunting Act in 2004, which outlawed the hunting of wild mammals with dogs, and introduced the Animal Welfare Act 2006, the first review of pet laws for 94 years. Speaking in February, Ed Miliband stated that:

‘Labour values tell us that we have a moral duty to treat the animals we share our planet with in a humane and compassionate way’.

In continuing the work set about by the previous Labour government, the party has pledged to end the badger cull, defend the 2004 Hunting Act and ban wild animals from being exploited in circuses.

Conservative Party

David Cameron has said a Conservative government would remain committed to offering a free vote to MP’s to repeal the Hunting Act introduced by Labour in 2004 if they are given another term in government. However, a group of Conservative back-benchers are intending to resist this repeal; the Conservatives Against Fox Hunting have worked stoically since 2011 to make sure that the Hunting Act and other reforms have not been overturned. Moreover, they have doggedly criticised the government’s continuing badger cull.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats have made a number of pre-manifesto claims to ‘ensure farming support is concentrated on sustainable food productions’. Their commitments extend to improving farm animal welfare and to reducing the use of animals in scientific research by funding research into viable alternatives. Importantly, they differ from the current Environment Secretary Liz Truss, in saying they would only support extending the current cull on badgers if they have shown to be effective, humane and safe.

Green Party

The Greens have made bold and consistent moves to put animal welfare at the top of their agenda. They go further than any other party in outlining a larger vision for society by stating the need to

‘foster understanding of our inter-relationship in the web of life and protect and promote natural habitat,’

and thus halting the destruction of the estimated 30,000 species we are currently losing each year. The Green Party have made commitments to end factory farming, including a ban on battery hens for eggs, preventing animals from being used for medical experiments, and ending the controversial badger cull. A fuller picture of the Green’s Commitments to animal protection can be found in their 2014 Animal Protection Manifesto. 

UKIP

UKIP have said they would scrap Green targets made by both the UK and the EU. On domestic issues, the party recently stated that they would be the first party to call for a complete ban on halal meat. The party maintains that this pledge is not being intended to stir up racial division, but rather to act on the conviction that the ethical treatment of animals comes before religious practice. However, UKIP’s animal welfare policy seems to be inconsistent and contains a number of contradictions, including the promise to re-instate fox-hunting. Furthermore, within Europe UKIP has voted against a crack-down on the illegal ivory trade, and, as the New Statesman recently reported, UKIP MEP Roger Helmer has claimed that dumb seal cubs deserved to be killed.

The Virunga Mountain Gorillas These Days

Dian Fossey carrying out observations with a silverback

I’ve just finished reading Dian Fossey’s Gorillas In The Mist and I’m wondering how Nunkie’s Group are getting on these days.

A lot has changed in the Virunga mountains since Fossey’s horrific murder in 1985, and humans have encroached on the gorillas‘ diminishing territory even more. The 1994 Rwandan genocide interrupted the research at the Karisoke Study Centre, and, since then, this recent documentary has demonstrated that the remote gorilla territory is threatened by oil exploration, as well as poachers and farmers

When Fossey’s book was published in 1983, there were 282 known gorillas in the Virgunas, so one could be forgiven for feeling encouraged to read on Wikipedia that there are now 880. The species are still critically endangered. They have at least managed to avoid becoming one of the species discovered and annihilated in the same century, as Fossey feared.

The fight against SOCO is far from over, as the BBC has recently reported that the Democratic Republic of Congo wishes to redraw the boundaries of the park, which would presumably enable SOCO to drill for oil in certain areas. The prime minister of the DRC hopes to persuade the UN that drilling for oil in one of the most bio diverse habitats on the planet is not incompatible with its world heritage status. The Virunga park certainly meets the selection criteria because it

‘contains the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.’

Even SOCO admit that the ensuing pollution of oil exploration operations could destroy the vulnerable ecosystem and threaten the survival of already endangered species. Why risk that?

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