Animal Planet's "nature" shows: whistleblowers detail crimes, animal cruelty, fakery

Mike from Mother Jones writes, "Mother Jones' James West looks into the dark side of the network's turn toward wildlife reality TV, and uncovers some disturbing revelations about a hit show. It boils down to this, West writes: 'The raccoon incident is just one of numerous instances on 'Call of the Wildman' sets of alleged animal mistreatment and possible infringements of state and federal law, the result of what sources describe as cavalier and neglectful production practices. A seven-month Mother Jones investigation -- which drew on internal documents, interviews with eight people involved with the show's production, and government records -- reveals evidence of a culture that tolerated legally and ethically dubious activities, including: using an animal that had been drugged with sedatives in violation of federal rules; directing trappers to procure wild animals, which were then 'caught' again as part of a script; and wrongly filling out legal documents detailing the crew's wildlife activities for Kentucky officials.'"

In fact, as with much of high-drama reality TV, the segment was concocted. Michael O'Bryan, the vet at Broadbent Wildlife Sanctuary, where the raccoons were taken to be filmed after the rescue, told me the "mother raccoon" was actually a male. (Sharp told me they "cannot affirm with certainty the gender of the raccoon.")

Three sources involved with the show confirmed that producers typically procure animals from farms or trappers and put them in fake rescue situations, on sets tailored to specification.

Sharp producers even go so far as to make fake animal droppings using Nutella, Snickers bars, and rice.

"It was part of my job to call around people to trap animals at the direction of Sharp," says Jamie, who worked on the show. (Jamie's name has been changed. Sharp Entertainment requires many employees and participants to sign confidentiality agreements that call for as much as $1 million in damages if breached.) "It's 100 percent fake," said a second production source. In other words, the raccoons were not "found" under the house, nor reunited with their mother.

Drugs, Death, Neglect: Behind the Scenes at Animal Planet [James West/Mother Jones]

(Thanks, Mike!)

Notable Replies

  1. IMB says:

    Maybe they wanted proof before reporting? Access to documents, developing relationships with sources, and whatnot? I get what you are saying, that reality TV is fake. But in the animals' cases, they didn't sign a contract to submit to any abuse or fakery.

  2. I am devastated to learn that Meerkat Storage Unit Wars is faked.

  3. I think it's worth being outraged that animals are being mishandled and criminally treated in the production of faked "reality". There's probably a depressing number of people who watch this shit, think it bears some (albeit produced) relationship to "reality", and think they know things about animals as a result. Animals they might then encounter in their lives. That's not just not-education, it's anti-education- the article describes Animal Planet's descent into craptainment, with all the Mermaids: Actually Real?! bullshit, but pulling real animals into that kind of delusional craptainment is ethically gross. Plus, criminal mishandling of animals? Even the ones you're legally allowed to kill if you find them in your house are generally protected by law from being tortured for your entertainment.

  4. I started having doubts about the show when they found that shroud in the U-Stor-It in Temecula, CA, and then "proved" it had an image of Meerkat Jesus on it.

  5. LDoBe says:

    Your point is? It may be perfectly legal to kill raccoons, but that doesn't make it legal to torture them. Just like it's legal to kill enemy soldiers, but illegal to torture POWs.

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