Wednesday, 29 June 2016 00:00

Born Free USA Condemns CBS Television for Continuing to Use Live Animals in Zoo Featured

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Network puts animals, the show’s cast, and crew at risk; ignores requests to consider humane alternatives

“We know the television industry is better than this and would never want a tragedy to occur.” – Born Free USA CEO

Washington, D.C., June 29, 2016 -- Born Free USA, a global leader in wildlife conservation and animal welfare, condemns the CBS Television Network for its use of live exotic animals in the series Zoo. The second season, which premiered last night, reportedly continues to use big cats, wolves, reindeer, horses, and buffalo in filming. The exploitative use of wildlife for entertainment is not only cruel to animals, but also extremely dangerous to the cast and crew working with them. Furthermore, using live wildlife for television and film is outdated in the age of computer-generated special effects, as recently illustrated in the feature film The Jungle Book, which seamlessly uses technology to bring wild animals to “life.”

According to Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, “We spoke to executives at CBS last year and were told that, if the show got picked up, a conversation or meeting would take place to discuss Born Free USA’s legitimate animal welfare concerns. We never heard back and further attempts to speak with them have gone unanswered. It is clear that no progress has been made in phasing out live animals. Zoo can certainly adopt modern technology in place of outdated practices that significantly impact animal welfare and public safety. We know the television industry is better than this and would never want a tragedy to occur.”

Wild animal “actors,” such as the ones used in Zoo, spend their lives in captivity experiencing severe physical and psychological suffering. Training methods for animal actors have been known to include coercion and negative reinforcement: a process which may involve withholding food or using physical force.

Moreover, many of the animals used in Zoo have long lifespans. Lions can live 10-15 years, sometimes longer; bears live for approximately 20-25 years. Often, when animal actors are no longer deemed useful, or they become too dangerous to be used in media, they are sent to already-overburdened sanctuaries or deplorable roadside zoos.

In addition, the use of exotic animals places actors and crew in highly dangerous situations. No matter how “well trained” and “trusted” the animals are, repeated incidents recorded in Born Free USA’s Exotic Animal Incidents Database demonstrate that such animals inevitably display their natural, wild behaviors, which can lead to injury or even death to humans. 

Roberts continues, “Wild animals are wild, and do not belong imprisoned in a trailer or exploited on a television or film set. These animals are not props, and forcing them to perform for our entertainment is neither humane nor safe—particularly when technological innovations can so easily be substituted. Given CBS’s stated plans to run the series for five seasons, we strongly encourage the network to ensure that only CGI technology is used in the future.”

Born Free USA is a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation, and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic "pets," trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to America the message of "compassionate conservation": the vision of the U.K.-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film Born Free, along with their son, Will Travers. Born Free's mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally. More at www.bornfreeusa.org, www.twitter.com/bornfreeusa, and www.facebook.com/bornfreeusa.

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