Adam Welz writes at the Guardian:
If you’re North American or get US-produced satellite TV, you’ve probably learned a lot about wildlife from outlets like the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and History. You might trust these channels because you’ve seen educational, factually accurate shows on them, unlike the ‘trashy’ material that dominates free-to-air network TV.
But not everything on on these ‘factual’ channels might be as ethical or even as accurate as you might think, and the implications for conservation could be profound.
I recently spent a few entertaining hours watching episodes of Discovery’s Yukon Men, a hit ‘reality’ series about the residents of the small town of Tanana in central Alaska. Launched in August last year, it’s consistently gained over two million US viewers in its Friday night slot, been syndicated overseas, and helped the channel win some of its biggest audiences ever.
The first episode brings us to midwinter Tanana, which a theatrical, husky male voiceover tells us is “one of America’s most remote outposts” where “every day is a struggle to survive”. A dramatic, orchestral score pounds as we see a lynx struggling in a leghold trap, guns firing, a man attacking a squealing wolverine with a tree trunk, a wolf which a voice tells us “might eat one of those kids”, a hand lifting up the head of a bloodied, dead wolf to show us its teeth, and then a gloved hand dripping blood while the voiceover rumbles that in Alaska, it’s “hunt or starve, kill or be killed”.
That’s all in the first minute.
In the second minute the voiceover tells us that “the town is under siege by hungry predators”. We see wolves eating a bloody carcass, a growling bear, men with guns shouting bleeped-out words, then a coffin. Another voice says that “there’s always somebody that’s not going to make it home”.
We’re soon told that Tanana’s water pipes are freezing up “but that’s not the only crisis. Wolves have been spotted on the edge of town.” Charlie, a hunter, shows us the tracks of “a lone wolf”. “Wolves are mean, ferocious animals and they can tear a man apart real easy” he says, so “we have to get this wolf, it’s not an if, its a must, because he’ll go to any measure to eat. They’re the worst kind.”
We then meet Courtney, a local mother, who’s scared that the wolf could eat her young daughter. Charlie agrees, “if we turned our backs for a couple of minutes, that baby would be gone.”
“There have been twenty fatal wolf attacks in the last ten years”, the voiceover intones.
Charlie kills the wolf in the next episode, pursuing it on a snowmobile and shooting it outside town with an AR-15, the same semi-automatic assault rifle used by the Sandy Hook school shooter. “The only good thing about a wolf is the quality of their nice fur”, says Charlie, holding up the blood-smeared pelt. Courtney agrees: “Dirty little rotten bastard.”
Sounds like the humans are the mean, ferocious ones. Read more here.