By Madeline Bernstein, President Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Los Angeles
Privileged starlets, pranksters, aging rockers and those hoping for a miracle are welcomed into American homes with growing frequency, as “reality” entertainment overtakes its scripted counterparts. We’ve watched as housewives behave badly, people undergo surgical procedures and rigorous exercise routines in a quest for beauty, and grown men try weekly to render themselves eunuchs.
What we must not welcome– must never welcome– is abuse, cruelty and exploitation in the pursuit of entertainment.
The NBC show Fear Factor recently rebooted and premiered the episode “Snake Bite” on Jan. 2, 2012. During one stunt, contestants in teams of two were set to face their “fear” of snakes. One team member [lay] in a clear, coffin-shaped box filled with 500 various live snakes while the other team member set about removing the snakes using only his or her mouth.
Apparently, to overcome your fear of snakes, you must bite them.
Notwithstanding the potential health risks to humans (salmonella, e-Coli and a host of other bacteria), little, if any, thought to the health and well-being of the snakes is evident. From the footage presented, experts agree that many of the snakes– whose backbones are [composed] of many fine, delicate and easily broken ribs underneath fragile skin and musculature– likely suffered permanent injuries and trauma.
Fear Factor, as a “reality” TV show, is not mandated to abide by the industry standard guidelines (created and enforced by [the American Humane Association]) that provide for the humane treatment of animals, as well as their protection from abuse, cruelty and exploitation. Many networks and producers of such shows claim they are filmed in a manner similar to that of documentaries.
But, unlike a documentary, shows like Fear Factor are staged. They are games. Contestants can choose to be catapulted off of skyscrapers, hang upside-down from a moving helicopter and push themselves to the brink of physical and emotional exhaustion (as they did during the “Snake Bite” episode).
I urge the producers of Fear Factor, NBC and the others who produce and air television shows glorifying the abuse and mistreatment of animals to stop. Those who cannot choose– in this case, snakes– must not be forced to suffer injury and trauma.
And, before you brush this off, telling yourself “they’re only snakes,” think about this: your Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA) was started in 1877 to protect those who people deemed to be “just women,” “just children,” “just horses” and “just pets.” For the voiceless, there is no payoff, no prize, no fame, and no glory. There is only suffering, confusion and death, all for our entertainment.
Animal cruelty is a crime in the state of California and the rest of the country regardless if it is a reality show. That is the reality.