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.