The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

May 25, 2008



As a kid growing up in Western Canada, the world was my oyster. And I mean the natural world...what I could see in front of me, what I discovered exploring, the wonder of all things.

And part of that natural curiosity about the natural world wasn't fuelled by Darwin and his Theory of Evolution, although I was aware of it and his pictures and all the magazine articles I collected.

No, a big part of my belief system about the nature of things around me was through Life Magazine and Life Books about the planetary system, through the Audubon Society and their books...

...And by what I watched religiously on TV. And, as a young kid growing up in the '60s, that I took as gospel.

Over the years, I came to understand that everything I saw and everything I read wasn't necessarily to be believed.

But just this week, thanks to a Canadian Broadcasting Corp. documentary program called Fifth Estate, I found out just how duped I and millions of other people were back then and still are now, to this day, in 2008.

And the dupers are some of the most loved and what should have been trustworthy sources anywhere, so-called naturalists supposedly trying to enlighten us about the other species around us.

I feel betrayed, angry, stupid, sad and a whole bunch of other things.

My buddy Homo Escapeons, whose knowledge of the wild world far exceeds my own, has blogged about this before, but I didn't understand the scope and breadth of the scam that I had believed for so long.

And the made-for-TV fiction begins with this guy, who refused the CBC's requests for comment, on camera, in 1986 on allegations all that film footage he shot of so-called "wild animals" was all just staged with trained bears, lions, etc.

Its name: Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom.

The CBC investigation found numerous examples of staged episodes, where the show's host, Marlin Perkins, the main man at the St. Louis Zoo, set out on so-called adventures in the wild including trapping bears and other feats.

Unfortunately, the CBC disclosed, all of these episodes featured trained animals, totally misleading and false scripts purporting to represent these things happening naturally in the wild and other falsehoods.

Believe it or not, this show has recently been resurrected by Mutual of Omaha. Now, it's running in high definition TV on major so-called "nature" channels across North America and presumably around the world.

Perkins, by the way, died 22 years ago.

Next on the list of "It's not quite the way we're showing it" is David Attenborough, but at least in the CBC interview he came clean. First, he totally dissed the Mutual of Omaha and Walt Disney fantasies. Good on him.

Then he did point out, honestly, that it is nearly impossible for any nature series to catch some images and video of things in the wild.

And he did concede that in at least one show he's done, on polar bears, they showed the birth of a polar bear cub from a zoo, not from the Arctic Circle...

...Although his narrative seemed to suggest the video was showing the birth of a wild cub in its natural environment.

His brother, we should point out, was the star misguided naturalist/businessman from Jurassic Park.

But the worst offender of all, near as I can determine because I grew up loving him and his show, was Walt Disney.

I've never been to Disneyland or Disneyworld or whatever, although my kids have. That magical, wonderful place where all your dreams could come true...

I watched that show religiously, every Sunday, waiting to be mesmerized, waiting to be brought into another realm I could never hope to visit, and the nature programs were always my faves...

But as has been documented previously by others and in much more detail in the CBC documentary I watched on Sunday, it was all a pile of sh*t, built on a deck of cards.

This was Walt's Way, it turned out. And perhaps no episode was MORE cruel and wrong than the one about lemmings jumping to their deaths in a mass suicide. No, they were swept over that cliff by boards forcing them over.

Why would Walt tell us that? What could be the point of telling us lies? But he did. And I believed him.

The CBC documentary, Fifth Estate, went well beyond these old historic truths, however.

It delved into how there are all these spiffy companies out there now, still, who have wild animals for rent who'll do what movie producers want.

This sh*t, even in today's politically correct world, is still happening. As the documentary showed, nobody will watch nature shows unless there are "money shots," the predators tearing apart the prey, the mating, the births.

And it's all artificially produced on camera, just for our benefit, and to the definite detriment of the animals involved.

And we want to see it because the world is so wacky now that we WANT that connection with the real, natural world, we want to escape all the non-reality shows that show us at our worst.

So we go goo-goo, ga-ga over movies that have chimpanzees in them or gorillas or bears or whatever, all tamed and trained to do things we think are totally cute.

A big part of the CBC documentary was how a lot of those chimps and other animals end up in safari game farms or in other more squalid places where they live out their lives in their own feces in 6 x 6 cages.

It's incredible and it's ridiculous and it goes on everywhere and every day and in every way, including the circuses and carnivals featuring elephants and tigers and you name it. It's abhorrent.

But if we go to see them or we watch them on TV, there's a market for it. There's incentive for companies to keep these animals and to train them to do what they're not supposed to do, just for our entertainment.

Wildlife is part of our sanity. But now it's no more sane than any other big-budget movie production or TV script. There's nothing REAL about it. Except the creepy reality that we're fuelling the exploitation of it.


  1. WW, like you, I spent my childhood glued to the tv screen watching all those shows. How disgusting and disappointing to find out that they were staged with trained animals!

    And those lemmings!! How COULD they do that to the little things???? Isn't that mass murder? Someone should push THEM over the cliff..... bastards...

    Makes me wonder, when I watch Big Cat Diaries on Animal Planet now, or reruns of the Crocodile Hunter, if those shows are staged as well....

    This really makes you just want to move to another planet, doesn't it? One where we haven't totally f*@ked things up in ALL ways.... ((sigh))

  2. Ponygirl:

    The Animal Planet is among the shows I didn't mention that The Fifth Estate includes.

    You can watch the whole thing at plus get a whole bunch more stuff.

    It's truly sad, all of it. And it calls everything else about TV into question too, doesn't it?

    How many other hoaxes shown or how many other stories manipulated to brainwash us?

    Remember, I AM from another planet.

  3. Well, I certainly hope Planet Orion doesn't have the same shit happening as is on this one.

    Can I visit it sometime? Would nice to get off this one for a bit....

  4. I'm shocked and so disappointed to learn all this. Shouldn't this be considered criminal? Is anything being done about preventing something similar from happening in the future?

  5. Ponygirl:

    Obtaining a travel visa would be a problem, seeing as Planet Orion is billions and billions of light years away.

    I'll discuss your request with the High Ambassador.


    The only thing that could be considered remotely criminal, I think, is the fate of these captive, trained animals after they outlive their usefulness.

    The Fifth Estate documentary spends quite a bit of time exploring that angle, showing some chimps we've all seen in movies or even TV shows like Seinfeld and where they're at now.

    Some are living in squalid, unhealthy cages in little roadside "zoos" or whatever all over the place, mostly in the U.S.

    As far as these TV and movie producers showing their depictions of what these animals do in the wild, I'm sure that if pressed, their argument would be that like any production, some creativity is a necessity to educate the public.

  6. Don't you just have a transporter thingie like on Star Trek? "Beam me up, WW." Maybe we could take some of those chimps with us - I am sure Planet Orion would be a better place...

    I watched the show on - I can't believe Edison electrocuted an elephant! OMG! That was so horrendous I almost didn't watch the rest.... they are such soulful, intelligent creatures... and he cooked one right there for the camera.... I am disgusted and mortified at what human beings are capable of... we stink as a species.

  7. I've been to some pretty amazing zoos, like the one in Atlanta or the one in San Antonio. I've also been to some really crappy ones. I remember being so disappointed and sad when I came across the tigers and lions exhibit in one small zoo...just looked depressing; nothing but concrete and wires making cages for these majestic creatures.

    And the sad part is, they were well fed and the keepers seem to genuinely care for them; but somehow, I think they'd be much better off being free; sadly, where would they go? Their roaming grounds have been overrun by an out of control human population...

    Well, staged or not, that Meerkat Manor show on Animal Planet had me hooked!

    P.S. I just went to that fifth estate web address and laughed when I found this:

    "The regular season of the fifth estate has come to an end so that we can make way for NHL hockey playoffs. "

    Typical Canadians! :)

  8. You're preachin' to the choir Baby!

    Thank goodness somebody finally got through to you obviously you never listen to me...I have been ranting about this for years.

    Be careful what you say about my beloved Sir David..

    Attenborough should never be mentioned in the same breath as Disney or Perkins EVER!

    I've been watching Planet Earth and it is stunning and beautiful and I am not naive enough to think that you can luck out and get every shot that you are after...but there is a huge difference between PE and Mutual of Omaha or Disney's White Wilderness ('58) for which he won a f*cking Oscar for drowning all of those Lemmings..

    *starts banging head against the wall

  9. Ponygirl:

    What's most amazing is this abuse of animals was condoned then and while it's poo-pooed now, it still goes on. It's dumbfounding.


    Yeah,you can't say all facilities that hold animals in captivity are bad.

    But if you viewed that Fifth Estate program, the footage of the places they found is pretty grotesque.

    I brought my kids to the zoo here all the time when they were younger. They loved it. It's amazing to see these animals up close. And that's what made Wild Kingdom and Walt Disney so appealing.

    It's what we don't know that can hurt them (and us). But it's no different from the food processing industry and what they do to all those chickens we eat and veal and beef.

    All that stuff is hidden from us because they know we don't want to know or we "CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!"

    And yes, when hockey playoffs are going on, everything gives way to them up here.


    No, I listen to you...then I immediately dismiss whatever you've said as malarkey.

    I agree Sir David is to be held in the highest esteem. He comes the closest to the truth, it appears.

    And I agree he should not be mentioned in the same breath as Walt or Marlin.

    I was merely pointing out that even he admitted to more gently pulling the wool over our eyes.


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