Unnatural animal acts a turn off

Posted on the 23rd September 2003

A Coalition of leading animal welfare groups supported by millions people have attacked Granada and ITV over a new animal reality TV programme.

“Man vs. Beast” is a staged show that pitches human skill against wild animals in mindless stunts which portray animals as little more than objects of ridicule. The stunts include a hot-dog eating contest between a man and a bear, an alligator in a staring competition, a panther in an agility test and an orangutan pitched against a “strong man” in a tug of war.

The show, which has been created by Granada and commissioned by ITV, recreates a similar and equally appalling reality TV show originated by Fox Productions in the USA. The US version even had an elephant pulling a DC10 passenger aircraft pitched against 44 “dwarves”.

Virginia McKenna, actress and star of the famous film Born Free says:

“I just can’t believe that we are expected to welcome this kind of degrading trivia. Degrading for the animals, insulting to our intelligence and a disaster for any possible chance of increased respect for the wild animals we share the world with. ‘Man vs. Beast’ is about domination and manipulation. It is a show about ‘trained animals’, something which we at Born Free and at other animal welfare organisations have been fighting against for years.”

Granada informed Born Free that the programme makers had consulted “Animal Regulatory Bodies” and “vets”. Granada did not, however, disclose which animal regulatory bodies they had consulted.

On a related but different point, Granada later disclosed to the RSPCA that the animals were hired from Amazing Animals in Oxfordshire, a company which provides the film and television industry with “trained” animals. James Clubb, director of Amazing Animals, was once part-owner and managing director of Clubb-Chipperfield, a company that shared premises with Chipperfield’s circuses in 1998. Mary Chipperfield and her husband, directors of Chipperfield Enterprises, were convicted in 1999 on charges of animal cruelty.

In response to the enquiry about the vets used in the making of the programme Granada revealed that they came from the Independent Zoo Veterinary Group (“IZVG”). According to the Amazing Animals website the IZVG works for Amazing Animals.

Granada and ITV stated in a letter to Born Free on 3 July 2003 that the animals in the programme “are only doing things they would naturally be pre-disposed to do”.

Dame Judy Dench DBE, actress and supporter, has said “I too am horrified to learn about the ‘Man vs. Beast’ television show. No animal should be exploited in this way and you have my wholehearted support to have it stopped. I will certainly sign your petition.”

Jenny Seagrove, actress and animal-advocate, supports the call to stop the broadcast of this programme. “Granada Television have sunk to the lowest of the low. They have abdicated responsibility and cast aside compassion with their involvement in ‘Man vs. Beast’. I am horrified.”

Despite such expressions of concern, and numerous letters from animal welfare groups and others, Granada and ITV appear to be intent on broadcasting what many of our members are sure to consider a degrading and outdated programme, showing little or no respect for animals.

Please sign Born Free’s petition to Granada and ITV on their website. Ultimately, if Granada and ITV continue to ignore public opinion, we ask that viewers switch channels when the ‘Man vs. Beast’ is aired.

Participants in the Animal Welfare Coalition
Organisation: Contact: Phone:
Advocates for Animals Ross Minett 0131 225 6039
Animal Aid Elaine Toland 01732 364546
Animal Concern John Robins 01389 841 639
Animal Defenders International Caroline Chisholm 020 8563 0250
Born Free Foundation Daniel Turner 01403 240170
Captive Animals Protection Society (CAPS) Craig Redmond 0845 456 9381
Care for the Wild Barbara Maas 01306 627 900
Jane Goodall Institute UK Tony Wright 023 8033 5660
Orangutan Foundation Ashley Leiman 020 7724 2912
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Dawn Carr 020 7357 9229
Royal Society for the Protection of the Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) Rebecca Ralph 0870 754 0450
Scottish Socialist Party John Patrick 0141 221 7714
Scottish Society for the Protection of the Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) Doreen Graham 0131 338 5605
Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society Cathy Williamson 01249 449 500
World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) Jonathan Owen 0207 587 5000

TV celebrities in support of the campaign to stop ‘Man vs. Beast’:

Dame Judi Dench DBE
Joanna Lumley OBE
Virginia McKenna
Jenny Seagrove
Liz Fraser

Granada/ITV and ITC addresses:

ITV Network – which commissioned the Programme, and has plans to broadcast in the autumn.

Claudia Rosencrantz
Commission Control for Entertainment
ITV Network Ltd
200 Gray’s Inn Road
London WC1X 8HF
Email: dutyoffice@itv.co.uk
Tel: 020 7843 8215 /8320 (duty office)

Granada Television – which produced the Programme for ITV.

Simon Shaps
Chief Executive, Granada Content
London Television Centre
Upper Ground
London SE1 9LT

Nicholas Steinberg
(Programme: Man vs. Beast)
London Weekend Television
London Television Centre
Upper Ground
London SE1 9LT

A formal complaint can also be send to the ITC:

Viewer Relations Unit
The Independent Television Commission
33 Foley Street
London W1P 7LB

Further quotes from participants in the Animal Welfare Coalition:

Advocates for Animals:

“Advocates for Animals is most concerned about Man vs Beast. So long as we condone ridicule and cruelty towards our fellow animals in the name of entertainment there is not much hope that we can even begin to combat the increasing levels of violence humans inflict both on other animals and humans.

“Granada Television and ITV should reconsider their decision to produce and broadcast this new TV show, which may have serious implications for animal welfare. This project should be stopped before it has the chance to desensitise viewers to unacceptable animal exploitation. These companies should instead be focusing on the amazing attributes of animals in the wild – where they truly belong.”

Animal Aid:

“This programme is in poor taste and reveals an unfortunate lack of imagination. Non-human animals have many qualities that should be celebrated – but not in this way. Exploiting wild animals for entertainment purposes serves only to degrade them, and us. As well as this, the animals will have undergone training at some point and we have no idea what this training will have involved. We strongly urge viewers to voice their opposition.”

Animal Concern:

“This is cheap and tacky telly at it’s very worst. If people want to let themselves be exploited in this way that is fine, at least they can choose to look stupid. The animals have no choice in the matter. We are also worried that some viewers might try to copy these irresponsible stunts at their local zoo or safari park. ITV should drop this rubbish and commission some real programmes instead.”

Animal Defenders International:

“We have thoroughly investigated the use of animals in circuses and have found abuse and deprivation to be commonplace. These shows have no place in modern society. We should be teaching respect for animals, not finding new ways to degrade them.”

Born Free Foundation:

“We have been campaigning to prevent the broadcast of ‘Man vs. Beast’ ever since plans were brought to our attention. We are deeply concerned about this TV show and the possibility of a subsequent series that will in our view only encourage animal exploitation, demean the animals and trivialise wildlife in general – attitudes that so many of us work tirelessly to end. Any civilised person would regard programmes like this as cruel.”

Captive Animal Protection Society:

“At a time when people are increasingly interested in experiencing wildlife in its natural habitat, and question the whole concept of keeping wild animals in captivity for ‘entertainment’, a programme such as Man Vs Beast drags us back years in our approach towards animals. The very title aims to pit human animals against non-human animals and the content does nothing to reveal the true wonder of how these species live. To really understand the amazing powers of animals we need to see them in their natural habitat, undisturbed by humans. A programme like Man Vs Beast is simply an animal circus and should be rejected.”

Care for the Wild International:

“This TV programme is in extremely poor taste. It’s portrayal of wild animals performing stunts and competing with people is degrading and promotes animal exploitation. The programme’s complete disregard for the intrinsic value of wildlife, portraying wild animals purely as objects for human entertainment, is unacceptable in today’s civilised society. Furthermore, forcing wild animals to perform unnatural activities compromises their welfare and the Man vs Beast show implies this is acceptable behaviour. Not only would airing this TV show be distasteful, it would also be irresponsible and could also lead to copycat stunts.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals:

“PETA were appalled to learn of plans to bring Man vs. Beast to the UK. In America the show was referred to as ‘moron television’ and viewers could clearly see that the animals were not there by choice and that they were terrified.” ” Animals are commonly bullied and beaten to force them to perform these degrading stunts, and they are ripped away from their family or herd into a stress-inducing studio. There are plenty of willing humans who will compete against each other without having to use animals.”

Royal Society for the Protection of the Cruelty to Animals:

Jackie Ballard, Director General of the RSPCA, said: “We strongly oppose any programmes that subject animals to behaviour that is not normal and therefore does not come naturally to them. It is very sad that programme makers consider degrading animals in this way purely for entertainment and we would urge people to avoid watching these shows and to complain to the programme makers. Animals like bears and elephants are wild animals and should be treated as such.”

Scottish Society for the Protection of the Cruelty to Animals:

“From the information that the Scottish SPCA has received, it appears that the Granada programme “Man vs. Beast” exploits animals by effectively making them perform stressful and unnatural acts for entertainment. The programme is unnecessary and the Scottish SPCA is opposed to the use of animals for any form of entertainment where distress or suffering is likely to be caused.”

Notes to Editors

  • Origin of the captive wild animals used in the filming: It has been confirmed in a letter from Granada Television to the RSPCA that the majority of the animals were hired from Jim Clubb and ‘Amazing Animals’. During a conversation with the local authority to Heythrop Zoological Gardens (August 2003), the Born Free Foundation learnt that the elephant used in the UK filming of ‘Man vs. Beast’ came from and was filmed at a UK zoo.
  • The ‘Chipperfield’ connection: James (Jim) Clubb is married to circus proprietor Sally Chipperfield and for years supplied animals for and toured with Sally Chipperfield’s Circus. Their joint company, Clubb-Chipperfield, provides animals for circuses and TV work. Mary Chipperfield and her husband Roger Cawley were convicted on animal cruelty charges in January 1999 (Animal Defenders’ records).
  • We have an ISDN line for broadcast-quality interviews.

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