Op-Ed: No "Victory" for PETA & No Cruelty in Animal Practice TV ShowPublished October 22, 2012
Animal Practice, one of NBC’s new fall comedies, was placed on the chopping block recently after five episodes failed to pull in viewers and subsequently drew low ratings. The sitcom gained notoriety for its use of animals on the show, specifically being maligned for its use of a monkey named Crystal as the main viewer attraction.
Now that the show’s been pulled, PETA, who protested the program’s use of animals as cruelty, is reportedly thrilled. A statement from executive Julia Galluci said the following: “PETA’s staff are celebrating today in response to news that NBC’s Animal Practice has been canceled. The cancellation of Animal Practice sends the strong message that using animals for cheap laughs on TV shows is archaic and uninteresting to today’s viewers, who are sophisticated enough to know that not only is putting a monkey in a lab coat not funny, it’s also cruel.”
So the cancellation of Animal Practice sends a message regarding animal cruelty? I think not. In fact, the only message I think it sends is one that’s been true since the dawn of television, which is that shows that don’t resonate with an audience will get pulled off the air. While PETA claims a victory, and claims that 40,000 members complained about the show’s use of Crystal, it’s a bit of a stretch to consider the show a perpetrator of animal cruelty. It’s even more of a stretch to insinuate that the show may have been canceled because a handful of viewers didn’t tune in out of protest to the monkey’s alleged abuse.
While it’s debatable (or not) that placing a monkey as the main star of a show is a cheap tactic to try and get laughs and is unsophisticated, it’s not fair to insinuate that the employment of said monkey is cruel, unless there’s evidence that that is actually the case. Regarding Animal Practice, there is nothing to suggest that abuse was anywhere on Crystal’s radar. As Entertainment Weekly's blog on the matter noted, Crystal is likely the “most pampered monkey on the planet.” Moreover, this particular Capuchin monkey is a professionally trained actor, with a line of industry credits spanning over 15 years. I’d hardly call her presence in films and TV shows abuse.
PETA thinks that the presence of animals on TV and in films is inherently abusive, and refuses to view situations involving animal actors on a case by case basis. Recent animal acting successes the likes of Uggie the dog and Bonny the Shih Tzu show that animal acting isn’t inherently cruel. Both rescue dogs, acting has allowed these canines a line of work that channels their energy into something positive and allows them to grow a stronger bond with trainers, handlers and owners, helping to repair some of the damage done through past abuses.
I’m not saying that all cases involving animal actors isn’t cruelty, but what I’m saying is that it needs to be examined on a case-by-case basis. Take HBO’s horse racing drama Luck for instance, which was canceled after one season of production over fears for the safety of the horses it used during filming. Three horses died during production, an indicator that working conditions for these horses were probably not that great. PETA raised concerns, and rightfully so in that matter. But in the case of Crystal the monkey, I think they are off base. Their applause of the show’s cancellation as a victory for animal rights activists simply does not make sense to me.
Where do you stand on the issue of animal actors? Is it inherently cruel to feature animals on TV and in film, or do situations need to be examined on a case-by-case basis? Share your thoughts in a comment.
Note: This article expresses the opinions of the author, and is not necessarily indicative of the opinions of Petside.com. Additionally, while NBCUniversal is the parent company of Petside.com, the opinions expressed here are not necessarily the sentiments of NBCUniversal.
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