With a title like, “Wonderful Friends,” one might think that this television show focuses on the beautiful relationships between humans and animals. Perhaps this is a series that highlights amazing rescue or adoption stories, or maybe even interspecies friendships! Either way, it sounds like a good time.
Well sadly, none of these are true for the Chinese reality show, “Wonderful Friends.” In fact, the premise of this show is likely the exact opposite. Featuring Chinese celebrities and animals in a zoo in South China, the makers of the show challenge the celebs to perform odd tasks involving the zoo’s residents.
Some of the past episodes have featured pop stars giving elephants a pedicure (yes, it is as dangerous as it sounds), and teen heartthrobs dressing monkeys up like Superman. For as pointless as the show sounds, it has been incredibly popular since it debuted in January. Garnering 20 million viewers with its first episode, the success of the show has only motivated its creators to think up more bizarre and inhumane challenges.
Unsurprisingly, the show has gained a ton of criticism from animal rights organizations and even lawyers who assert that it breaks Chinese animal welfare laws. (If there is a chance that the use of animals for this show is breaking Chinese animal welfare laws – which are lenient, at best! – then you KNOW something is wrong here.) Allegedly, the producers of the show do not have the proper exhibition license to feature protected animals on TV. Chinese news outlets who contacted China’s Conservation Department and Press Office of the State Forestry Administration (SFA), found that the Department was completely unaware the show was even happening and thus had not checked up on any proper paperwork. (Another winning sign for the show.)
But regardless of the legality of the reality series itself, we can’t help but to be appalled at the show’s blatant exploitation of animals (and celebs) for ratings.
Miss Jiao, an animal expert who has seen the show, told the Daily Mail, “people are mistaking the creature’s distressed reactions as cute. For example, a chimpanzee that appears to be ‘grinning’ is actually showing signs of of ‘anxiety, fear and threat’.”
Animals in zoos are already subjected to enough mental and physical distress; adding strangers who have no knowledge or background in animal behavior or management can only make their experience worse.
The bottom line is that people who watch the show are going to get the impression that the animals enjoy being in entertainment and are, to some degree, complicit with participating in these crazy schemes. If we ever hope to see wild animals treated with the dignity and respect they deserve (ideally in their natural habitats where they belong), we can’t continue to spread the facade that keeping them in captivity can be “fun.”
As animal lovers, we can’t sit idly by why these producers profit off of the exploitation of animals. If you think that “Wonderful Friends” should be canceled, start a petition and help spread awareness about this cruel series!