Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Open Letter to Rick Holzman, Executive Vice President of Programming and Strategy at Animal Planet.

Dear Mr. Holzman,

When did Animal Planet stop teaching people about animals and start turning animals into larger than life monsters who stalk humans for the sheer fun of it?

In recent years I've watched as Animal Planet's ratings have skyrocketed while the roster of its programs has foregone scientific facts for exciting (and often completely erroneous) theories. Shows like the 'Call of the Wildman' and 'Gater Boys' are little more than backyard movies featuring tired semi-domesticated animals which are kept on set in small cages until the time arrives for them to be released, only to be 'captured' by 'Turtle Man', or wrangled by the 'Gater Boys'. Other shows like 'Monsters in America' and 'Finding Bigfoot' don't even contain animals, only postulate theories on what animals might yet exist, while alway driving home the idea that they should those animals actually be found, they will pose an immediate threat to humans.

The problem is, Mr. Holzman, many of the people watching these shows believe most, if not all, of the bullshit that Animal Planet is feeding them. They actually believe that catching coyotes with your bare hands is an appropriate way in which to deal with them, provided that you 'know how to handle them'. Grabbing a coyote bare handed is NEVER appropriate. Neither is chasing raccoons, or skunks or any other animal around until it's completely exhausted.

I've loathed Animal Planet for some time now, but it's a free country. I let Animal Planet produce what it wants, and just don't watch the shows. But this 'Monster Week' gimmick is the last straw for me, and I can't take it anymore, so I'm writing this open letter to you. I'm just one person, and I'm quite sure that you don't actually give a shit about what I think. You probably wouldn't give a shit about the opinion of someone much more important than me, like Dian Fossey. But that's okay. It's a free country, and just as you endeavor to create television shows that grossly misrepresent animals to the American public, and shape the way that public will perceive animals - and subsequently treat them - I'll endeavor to tell you what I think about the joke you call 'animal based' programming.

No, 'joke' isn't the right word for what you and Animal Planet are doing, because 'joke' implies that it's amusing or funny. There is nothing even remotely amusing about the lies you're telling the American public.

'Man-Eating Zombie Cats' - There have, indeed, been outbreaks of canine distemper among groups of big cats. No, there is not a global epidemic, of the disease. Yes, the woman whose story you cited was attacked by a mountain like in Southern California. Yes, that lion had killed a man prior to attacking her. But that cat was not suffering from canine distemper. It was a young, malnourished animal ill-equipped to sustain itself via natural prey. Much of the video footage used in the program was in no way related to actual outbreaks of canine distemper. In fact, none of the footage at all showed a cat known to be suffering from the disease. The closest was footage of a tiger in Russia shown walking despondently through heavy traffic, apparently disoriented and suffering from some unknown malady. In reality, cats affected by canine distemper are sluggish, disoriented, unable to feed themselves properly. They do not go on rampages, and begin viewing humans as prey items.

'Man-Eating Super Wolves' - This was the one where I knew I couldn't leave it be without saying something on the matter. Wolves have been persecuted and hunted nearly to extinction since be beginning of recorded history. Only in the last few decades have they begun to make a comeback in the contiguous United States. Mr. Holzman people like you are the reason wolves were driven nearly to extinction. Yes, there has been some trouble in Siberia wherein multiple hard winters have forced wolves to hunt livestock when they normally would have. Yes, many reindeer were killed, along with a number of horses (though the is a huge difference between several hundred lost horses, and the thousands your show says were lost to wolves) yet you offer no actual documentation of the losses. It's a proven fact (look up the statistics yourself) that when wolves were first reintroduced in the midwest, the reported cattle kills attributed to wolves measure about 500 head. However, the total number of cattle lost over the winter did not change from years prior to the reintroduction. Meaning about 500 cattle were reported lost to 'natural causes' each year in the years before there were any documented wolves in the area, and after the wolves arrived, about 500 cattle were lost over the winter, but according to the cattlemen making those reports, ALL  500 hundred lost cattle were specifically killed by wolves. You can see where I'm going with this. In America, even with the facts laid out before them, people refuse to acknowledged that wolves couldn't possibly be killing the cattle they were being blamed for killing. An now you come along with your eye-grabbing title declaring that there are 'man-eating super wolves' stalking the globe in massive packs of 400 animals. The show cobbled together various stories, leaving out important information, and heavily utilizing two separate incidents involving wolf hybrids, NOT actual wolves to 'prove' how dangerous and given to hunting humans wolves really are. In both those cases, the wolf hybrids were being kept in huge numbers by unqualified caregivers and the animals were starving, diseased, and desperately just trying to survive. In one story, the narrator intones that the 'vicious animals were euthanized to protect the public'. No sir, Mr. Holzman. Those animals were euthanized because their health was such that there was no other option. The 'public' was never in danger. The animals were sick, and had fed off of a human, so they were humanely destroyed, that's all. Just one more overlooked reality among all the other overlooked realities within your so-called reality show.

Where do you get off producing programs which intentionally misrepresent animals to the populace and lay out falsified facts as if they're common knowledge? When will this end? After all the animals that you've vilified  have gone extinct because people see them as monsters and not part of the natural world? You even misrepresent dead animals. The 'Montauk Monster' and similar reports of bizarre animal carcasses are nothing more than common animals which have decomposed in water. Yes, they look disturbing, but here's a secret: death is not attractive. Decomposition disarticulates what is perceived to be a normal animal and leaves it looking like something people have never seen before. And honestly, how many people have the opportunity to see a sloth or other animal that's been floating dead in water for a week? In the absence of knowledge, ignorance reigns. And thanks to programs like those Animal Planet is currently producing, ignorance now has a firm and all-encompassing grip on the American public. I hope you're happy with all the hard work you and Animal Planet have done in the name of destroying the very animals you claim to support.

I don't expect you to reply to this. I don't even expect you to read it. And, frankly, I'm not sure I want you to respond. Reading some sort of canned Bullshit: The Apology Addition is only going to piss me off all the more. So go on and sit in your corner office and enjoy the fact that your channel is number one in the ratings (or whatever rank Animal Planet holds) Who cares if it got those ratings by lying through its teeth? The public loves to hate things, and right now they hate predatory species of animals. Keep feeding humans garbage, and they'll keep coming back, just like a raccoon habituated to eating out of a trash can. I'll just be over here trying, one day at a time, one incident at a time, to correct the irreparable damage you have done, and are doing, to the relationship your viewers have with the world, and animals around them.