A short correspondence concerning ethics and Discovery Channel wildlife programs


In early October of this year, I was approached by the representative of a production company that wanted to use my footage of a wild Green Anaconda subduing a Spectacled Caiman in an upcoming Discovery Channel special featuring Paul Rosalie. The footage is rare and has garnered 237,825 views on YouTube since it was posted (see previous blog post), and presumably could have been licensed for a decent sum, but I opted not to license my footage, on ethical grounds. In good faith, since this interaction would be of some interest to those concerned with animal welfare (as I am), as well as the role of television programs in shaping public sentiment, and its subsequent effect on conservation efforts, I have removed the name of the contact and copied our correspondence below:

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Wed, Nov 26, 2014 at 11:06 PM

Dear *****, Thank you for being patient while I gave your request some careful thought. I have decided to not license my footage to your company. As a professional scientist and conservationist, I take issue with Paul Rosalie’s work on ethical grounds. The Discovery Channel show Eaten Alive, which will be aired on December 7 of this year, features Mr. Rosalie in a “snake proof” suit, being swallowed whole by a Green Anaconda. The stunt not only puts the health of the animal at risk for no apparent benefit other than sensationalism (I doubt very much that an ethics board at any major University would approve this type of action if no specific knowledge was gained by it), it perpetuates a sense of fear in the public for snakes; that snakes are scary and deadly and the enemy. This is the very sentiment that snake conservationists are devoting their lives to reverse. Paul Rosalie’s antics cause real harm to conservation efforts. I do not believe that this harm will be alleviated by paying lip service to snake conservation and science in the rest of the show.

Sincerely,
Matthew Halley

On Tue, Oct 14, 2014 at 3:48 PM, ******** <*****@*******.tv> wrote:

Matthew,

Thanks for getting back to me. Basically it’s a 2-hour expedition special for the Discovery Channel that follows conservationist Paul Rosalie on a journey through the wilds of Peru as he searches for a giant anaconda he had discovered a few years ago. His goal is to safely capture the snake and after observing and interacting with it release it back into the wild. That’s the gist of it, I’ll do my best to answer any further questions you have. Attached is a standard copy of our material release for you to peruse should you decide you’re interested in licensing to us. Thanks again sir.
anaconda_sqeeze2
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Categories: Exploration, Herpetology, Natural HistoryTags: , , ,

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