Animal Lovers Still Squealing Over "Survivor"

Animal rights group cry foul over the slaughter of a pig in last week's episode of CBS' Survivor: The Outback

By Josh Grossberg Feb 22, 2001 11:50 PMTags
If a pig squeals Down Under, does anybody care?

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals do. The activist group on Thursday enlisted animal-protection authorities in Queensland, Australia, to review a tape of last week's boar-skewering installment of CBS' Survivor: The Australian Outback to determine whether any animal cruelty laws were broken.

The episode sparked outcries among U.S. animal rights groups including the Ark Trust, the Humane Society and PETA, who labeled the killing gratuitous, and slammed the Darwinistic game show for using animals essentially as props.

"We certainly don't think animals should be killed for ratings. I think CBS thoroughly underestimated peoples' sympathies for animals," says PETA spokeswoman Lisa Lange.

While the actual slaying was not shown on the CBS prime-time broadcast, the network did show Kucha tribe member Michael Skupin stalking the slow-moving wild piglet (which had allegedly been flushed from its habitat by a wildfire), followed by a squeal and a cut to Skupin wielding a bloody knife. We later see the pig's carcass and hear a joyful Skupin say, "I feel better about my position [in the tribe] now that I've made this kill." Another tribe member says, "It looks like a murder scene." (Earlier, the same tribe killed--off-camera--one of its chickens for breakfast.)

PETA, which last summer went to war over Survivor contestants killing and grilling rats, has asked its attorneys to look into whether CBS and Survivor producer Mark Burnett instigated the pig slaughter, which would violate Australia's Animal Protection Act of 1925.

The act forbids anyone from baiting, mistreating, or torturing any animal or prompting such acts. Parties found guilty of "instigating" cruelty toward animals are subject to criminal charges.

In a letter to CBS, PETA also contends the "wild boar" killed by Skupin may not have been wild after all. The group based its suspicions on the fact that the pig stood calmly when it was easily captured and was killed "behind a rock that obscured the supposedly 'spontaneous' scene from view."

Okay, so it wasn't a g'day for the pig.

Spurred on by PETA, Australia's Department of Primary Industries' animal welfare unit and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have launched an investigation into the killing. The Aussie groups will review the episode Thursday and make a decision on whether to pursue charges afterward. In the meantime, PETA says it's trying to procure unedited footage of the hunt that the organization hopes will, um, beef up its case.

CBS, meanwhile, has issued a statement defending its monster-rated show. "PETA's suggestion that the producers violated Australian law by orchestrating the pig incident is completely inaccurate," the statement reads.

"It should also be noted that Survivor: The Australian Outback has given a tremendous amount of attention to the pro-vegetarian/animal rights point-of-view with Kimmi Kappenberg's refusal to eat parts of a mammal in the second episode, as well as her ongoing opposition to tribe members eating chickens and the pig.

"In addition, CBS and the producers made a concerted effort to minimize--and not glorify--the graphic nature of this incident while still ensuring that the viewers were not cheated out of the reality of what happened in the Outback."