Thursday, 27 November 2008

animals in entertainment and surveillance awareness

As planned, I watched the CBC's "Cruel Camera" special on The Fifth Estate last night. (if you missed it, you can watch video and read a lot of the details on the program's webpage). Not quite as disturbing as I had feared, or particularly shocking, but that's mostly because I knew a lot of this information already - captive animals used to stage wildlife documentaries, with nothing in the narration indicating the 'reenactment' nature of the films, for example.

Some of the animals are filmed in zoos, others are professional actors whose handlers are hired to reproduce specific stunts for the camera. Even the most respected natural history filmmakers engage in the practice, and as for the classic Disney nature films - a baby polar bear tossed down a slope, lemmings thrown off a cliff... Not so warm and fuzzy, eh?

But "Cruel Camera" was actually more concerned with the use of animals actors in general than with the practices of on-screen natural historians, particularly the use of chimps in film and tv. Speaking to a major animal provider and handler as well as primate sanctuary founders and even Jane Goodall, the program revealed what might as well be called systematic torture.

Chimps can live well into their fifties, and their developmental stages are reasonably similar to humans' - infancy, childhood, adolescence, and a long adulthood. Well, only toddler and child chimps are malleable enough to be trained for entertainment, so the baby chimps are taken from their mothers when they're maybe one year old, brutally trained to act on command, and then shipped off to any roadside zoo or research facility that will take them once they get too strong and wild to handle, which usually happens at adolescence, before they're ten years old.

A few of the luckiest chimps end up in sanctuaries, which require $14000/yr for each chimp's care. But there's a chance the sanctuaries won't be needed indefinitely. The program suggested that the hard work and campaigning of Goodall and other activists may soon result in a ban preventing the use of chimp actors. It can't come too soon.


A polar bear photo is a sure way to catch my attention on the net (I know, I'm a sucker), so lured in by a polar bear photo posted by the CBC I happened upon another entertaining image. As someone with an interest in surveillance studies (and a little healthy paranoia), I couldn't help but be amused by this UK photo: "ONE NATION UNDER CCTV".

Which then, of course, me want to watch this video - "(Total Surveillance is) Identity Theft" - by UK band The Bombs of Enduring Freedom.

And that, inevitably, led me to check on what James Fogarty of The Bombs of Enduring Freedom/Death to Music/Ewigkeit is up to these days. As it turns out, the answer is - quite a bit. New material, the debut digitally re-released, new releases by other DTM artists... Looks like I have more CD shopping and legal downloading to do...

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