Following seven months of investigating by ClimateDesk producer James West, Mother Jones has today published an article that may turn out to be to Animal Planet what Gary Baum’s recent THR shot was to the American Humane Association (AHA). Titled “Drugs, Death, Neglect: Behind the Scenes at Animal Planet,” West’s report catches up to various incidents of apparent abuse and trickery on the set of the network’s Sunday night hit Call of the Wildman.
From a note to the media by the San Francisco-based magazine:
Alleged animal abuse: A baby raccoon died and others were endangered when they were removed from their mother to be staged for the show. For another episode, a zebra used in filming was drugged with sedatives. Two bats were found dead in the same Texas hair salon, where bats had earlier been placed for filming. As one source indicated, “the animals weren’t under stress until we arrived.”
Concocted reality: “Producers typically procure animals from farms or trappers and put them in fake rescue situations” and “ninety-nine percent of the show, even the dialogue, was scripted,” according to sources involved with the show. They also suggest that poisonous snakes were placed in a public pool in Danville, Kentucky, for one segment.
During the course of West’s investigation, Animal Planet arranged for an interview with the makers of the program, Sharp Entertainment. In attendance also was Manhattan crisis manager Matthew Hiltzik:
“We’ve always made the humane treatment of animals our top priority,” says Dan Adler, a Sharp senior vice president.
The allegations that West is reporting were first and separately brought to Sharp/Animal Planet in May of 2013. The companies state that among the adjustments made were new field-crew guidelines and the addition of an on-set licensed animal handler.
In one of a several emails to West that followed the Sharp meeting, Animal Planet senior VP of communications Patricia Kollappallil wrote: “The [sub-contracted] person who is providing that animal for production is responsible for adhering to those legal requirements.”
As West reminds in the above video, unlike human participants in stage-managed reality shows, the animals featured in Call of the Wildman are obviously unable to register any objections. Read-bookmark the Mother Jones investigation here.