Thursday, February 26, 2009

Killing Guinea Pigs on ABC Children's Television

Below is a letter written by my daughter Maddy in reaction to the broadcast of "Serious Andes" on 24 February at 5pm. We sent it to The Age, The Green Guide, Media Watch and the ABC Complaints Department. So far the only response we have had is from Media Watch, who said they will take a look at the offending program:
On Tuesday 24 February at 5:00pm, there was a show on the ABC called "Serious Andes" on which they were killing and eating guinea pigs. In children's TV time! With no warning about it or anything! It's like killing a dog on TV! Lots of people have pet guinea pigs including us. My younger sister cried madly and was also very upset - as I am. I would never watch another episode.

"Cute and fuzzy animals", she cried. "Why would you kill and eat them just for a TV show? Evil, evil, evil." (Mia loves her guinea pigs).

I find it very inconsiderate to put this on a children's TV show on without warning.

Maddy Schütz-Beaton (aged 10)


At Thursday, February 26, 2009 10:40:00 am , Blogger eulogos said...

Your daughter writes well and knows how to get her point across.

As to whether I agree with her, it depends what kind of show this is. If it is one of those "gross-out" shows where people eat roaches or worms or have rats run al over them there is no excuse for such programs, guinea pigs or no.

On the other hand, if it is a nature/geography type show in which this was an episode about a tribe/cultural group for whom guinea pigs are part of their diet, I really don't see censoring it. Some groups of people have eaten dogs. In France, horsemeat is on the menu. Where I live, people hunt and eat deer, even though fawns are so cute and Disney made a movie about one. Most of the peoples of the world, except the Semites, eat pigs, even though there is a wonderful children's classic called Charlotte's Web in which a little girl loves a pig and a spider helps save him from being butchered. How long would you want to protect children from these realities? There were people engaging in verbal apoplexy here in the US because Sarah Palin, as governor of Alaska, engaged in one of those ridiculous "Turkey pardoning" affairs, and "pardoned" one Turkey while the farmer methodically dispatched other turkeys in the background. She had spoiled Thanksgiving. She would destroy the turkey farmers in Alaska because after showing such things no one would buy a turkey. And so on. These are people who have allowed themselves to become just too squeamish.

Another example: My husband was a chef for years. His brother was married to a woman who loved horses and owned several. She got on the phone with my husband and said, "You cook in a French restaurant-I hope you don't serve horse." He responded, deadpan, " If one comes in I promise I'll refuse to serve him." She hung up the phone in fury and refused to speak to him for years afterwards. Perhaps she had been too encouraged in over delicate sensibilities?

There is a difference between pets and animals we regard as food, and the difference is not in the species of animal, it is in how we regard them, and what kind of relationship we develop with them.
A pet guinea pig is not a wild guinea pig even if they are the same species.

My father would never let me try to rescue baby rabbits from our cats. He pointed out that this was the natural behavior of cats, and that rabbits would breed until they ate everything in sight, and then starve, if they didn't have natural predators. He showed me the skeleton of a deer in the woods, and told me it was a young female deer who had died of starvation the previous winter; he showed me how he knew this, and explained that one reason this happened was that humans had killed all the wolves. And if I had been upset about people who ate guinea pigs, he would have explained that these were not pet guinea pigs, and that they were part of these people's diet.

On the other hand, if this was cruelty for the sake of cruelty, or grossness for the sake of being gross, then it is wrong.

Susan Peterson

At Thursday, February 26, 2009 12:54:00 pm , Anonymous Sharon said...

Susan I realise that guinea pigs are kept for food, like chickens, in some parts of South America. I think what David was objecting to was that the programme was shown in a children's time slot.

At Thursday, February 26, 2009 1:15:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...


Well, it was neither a "gross-out" program nor a wildlife/cultural documentay, but a "reality tv show".

I had the discussion with the kids about how we differentiate pets from animals from food - and how this really depends entirely on culture. That was valuable, but it wasn't what upset them.

You can read about the series here and here. Wikipedia describes it as a series in which "a group of eight 12- to 15-year-olds embark on an expedition to an extreme part of the world, in order to help wildlife or assist in environmental projects."

What upset my daughters was that the guinea pigs were actually killed for this group of kids to eat as part of their experience. It was done by the producers of the program for the sake of the program's participants. There was a whole box of them - one for each kid. It wasn't showing this being done by the local tribes. It was, as Mia accurately pointed out, done "just for a TV show". I can see her point.

You can find the video at this location.

At Thursday, February 26, 2009 10:07:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Well, I agree with Maddy and Mia. The kids most certainly did not have to be served guinea pig, requiring the killing of guinea pigs to be served, as part of the experience, nor did other kids need to be shown same on TV.

I also agree with Susan. Romantic ravings about "Nature" should be left to the nineteenth century and the urban pseudo-nostalgics for something they clearly never knew.

matermi: being in the state of meternity.

At Thursday, February 26, 2009 10:09:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

That's maternity -- it's 0507 over here so give me a break.

fomidedn: a new breakthrough drug preventing fomenting.


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