Sunday, November 25, 2012

I'm An Animal, Get Me Out of Here

        “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

        Gandhi’s words imply, then, that Britain is not particularly great or noble, because we as a nation are more than happy to poke, prod, annoy and distress our merry way through the animal kingdom.

        For many people, the start of ITV’s stalwart reality show I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here is a depressing time, with animal rights champions such as Chris Packham of BBC’s Autumnwatch and charities such as RSPCA repeatedly criticising the show. OFCOM received massive numbers of complaints in 2009 when camp mates caught and killed a supposedly wild rat - so why can’t they treat all of the animals with the same respect?

        I’d like to clear two things up. Firstly, I consider myself to be an Animal Activist. I’m reclaiming that word as of now, and re-defining it to mean “a person whose chief concern is the welfare of ALL animals, domestic and otherwise, in ANY situation.”

        Secondly, without naming names, not all charities are as morally upstanding as they seem. In my opinion, any charity that uses scare-mongering to brainwash children,  chases down high-profile names such as Game Freak or Ben and Jerry’s ice cream with ludicrous, headline-grabbing stunts and ignores the real plight of animals, even to the point of neglecting or even culling animals in their own care, is NOT for animals. I am sure that there are people affiliated with these companies that feel the way that I and many others do about animal welfare, but unfortunately they appear not to be in charge.

        So tell me this: if it’s not acceptable to catch and kill a live animal on TV, why is it acceptable to force a young woman into a room with a live ostrich, especially when you consider that ostriches are classed as a ‘dangerous animal’ here in the UK? In other ‘Bushtucker Trials’, spiders and snakes have their fangs removed and alligators have their mouths bound (don’t even get me started on that) but there was no way to ‘weaken’ the ostrich - bind its legs together, perhaps? Then we’d have had trouble. If an animal is not safe to be near a human, don't place it in a bloody great box on top of their head.

        In other trials, contestants thrust their hands into covered boxes to retrieve small star tokens that guarantee them and their camp mates luxury food items, but are also filled with various lizards, snakes, spiders, scorpions and certain other animals that would make the average viewer cringe. I’m told that these animals are very well taken care of during the time that they are not in the boxes. Emphasis on the last part of my sentence there. So because the handlers take care of them during the many hours they are not in the box, it's OK to have someone grab at them? You cannot sit a lizard down and explain it's all for entertainment purposes and they won't be hurt - the majority of them will be terrified when a groping hand comes into their enclosure suddenly. Is it really acceptable to stress them out for twenty minutes if we treat them with respect for the rest of the time?

        I know people don’t really care as much about non-domestic animals, and it’s not everyone’s fault. We’ve been conditioned to think that puppies are adorable and spiders should be killed on sight. But is that really the way a person or in this case a TV programme that claims to have ‘all animals’ in mind should behave? You can’t claim to be kind to all creatures if you overlook the vast majority of them. It’s like that famous saying that begins with “I’m not racist, but...”*

        There are plenty of other tasks that the camp can do that don’t involve animal cruelty - they’re in Australia, for crying out loud. Get them cooking an authentic Aussie dish, or working together to create some Aborigine art, or crossing a stream without getting wet. But then it wouldn’t be sensationalism, would it? And sensationalism apparently makes good TV. What a shame that we’ve regressed back to nothing more than bear-baiting.

        They say every dog has its day, and I think that I’m a Celeb’s day has definitely long gone. I really hope that next year, ITV will come up with a new format...but I don't hold out much hope.

*I would like to explain - I am likening the idiotic attitude of believing that you can deem yourself ‘100% not racist’ and then follow that up with a racist comment to claiming to care for all animals when in fact you only care for one or two. If you think I am implying anything else by that statement, think again RIGHT NOW.

^ "Chris Packham Attacks 'I'm a Celebrity's' "disrespect" of Animals", The Mirror Online, 22 Nov 2012. Retrieved 25 Nov 2012