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Cruel Chinese animal TV show should be scrapped

10 March 2015

Volunteers delivering a letter to the broadcasting authority asking for Animal Friends to be taken off air

Animal lovers across China are joining an Animals Asia initiative requesting a TV show, which breaks China’s regulations banning animal performance, be scrapped.

While debate and anger have grown online, offline activities have included a group of animal lovers in animal masks presenting a letter to China’s state media regulators demanding the show be scrapped.

The programme, Wonderful Friends, sees celebrities interacting with animals - including giving elephants pedicures and taking chimpanzees on shopping trips.

Those opposing the show say it is tantamount to banned circus-style animal performance and is stressful and damaging to animals.  In addition it puts participants at risk from diseases and animal attacks.

Chimp and orangutang bad handling (screen grab)

Animals Asia’s efforts to highlight the show’s inherent cruelty to animals as well as the fact that it breaks China’s ban on animal performance has gained widespread support in China with thousands of social media users backing calls for the show to be scrapped.

Animals Asia’s Animal Welfare Officer Hui Wang said:

“This campaign has really struck a chord due to the high profile nature of the show. It has sky-high ratings figures and plays on the fact that people love animals. The problem is that most don’t realise how the animals are being exploited and their health put at risk – all in contravention of China’s regulations.”

Petting cubs

With four giant pandas recently dying of distemper, the State Forestry Administration (SFA) has banned close contact between tourists and wild animals in captivity.

To get round the ruling, the Chimelong Wildlife Park, which hosts the show, has claimed the celebrities are “intern zookeepers”, a claim rejected by conservationists.

Animals Asia Animals Welfare Director Dave Neale said:

“There are so many reasons why Wonderful Friends shouldn’t be on the air. It is hugely misleading to the public about the needs and welfare of captive animals and does so while putting their welfare and health at risk. It is also a danger to the human participants who have been bitten and trampled on, the wider public with the risk of disease transmission, and contravenes a number of China’s animal protection laws.

“A great number of the public back Animals Asia’s campaign to highlight the show’s illegality, so the only question now is why does it remain?”

Feeding the lions (screen grab)

Protected species such as chimpanzees and elephants featured in the show require SFA approval to be used on TV. However, online news outlet Chinadialogue has reported that the SFA press office claim to be unaware of the programme or any issues arising from it.

Animals Asia founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE said:

“It’s such a shame that the public’s love for animals here in China is being used against the very creatures that they treasure so much. If the makers of the show were truly interested in animal welfare or educating the public about wildlife, there are a million better ways to do so.”