Cruelty investigation at Cinemazoo can only be a good thing
By Peter Fricker 11 Nov 2010
News that the BC SPCA and the Ministry of the Environment are conducting a cruelty investigation into Cinemazoo, the Surrey-based animal rental agency, is a welcome development for animal welfare in B.C.
Cinemazoo, as discussed previously on this blog, is a commercial business that rents out exotic animals for film and television work, corporate entertainment and birthday parties. In short, it exists to exploit animals for profit.
Yet somehow, Cinemazoo was able to establish a registered charity called The Urban Safari Rescue Society to increase revenue for its activities. The society’s mission statement says that one of its goals is to “breed endangered species in our care, for release into their natural habitats on protected reserves or conservation parks.”
Endangered species breeding is a highly regulated activity. Professional Species Survival Plans (SSPs) are located only at reputable, accredited zoos, and use only registered breeding stock which has been verified to be healthy, physically and genetically. Rescued pets or animals from the exotic pet trade would not qualify, as their genetic history cannot be verified. This is to avoid breeding and releasing animals with genetic mutations, disease or problems from inbreeding.
So how much genuine conservation work has Cinemazoo or Urban Safari Rescue really been doing? How many endangered species have been successfully bred and released into the wild or into conservation parks? Potential donors might want to ask, as should the Canada Revenue Agency, which registered charities in Canada. The public should be wary of any organization that makes money from captive exotic animals.
In 2009, Cinemazoo was unable to pay its rent at a property in Cloverdale (before moving to its current location in south Surrey) and successfully launched a public appeal for funding. Now Cinemazoo’s owner, Gary Oliver, is saying that he was “overwhelmed” by the difficulty of moving to the new facility. Does this sound like the kind of stable, professional organization necessary to care for hundreds of exotic animals?
It’s high time these previously unregulated animal rental agencies (of which there are several in B.C.*) came under the scrutiny of the Ministry of the Environment. It is encouraging that the MOE has joined with the BC SPCA in investigating Cinemazoo. It appears the ministry is taking its responsibilities under the new Controlled Alien Species Regulations seriously.
The bottom line in all this is the fact that exotic animals suffer in captivity. Unless there is a genuine conservation reason for keeping them, it is unacceptable to keep these species in cages, tanks or pens. The film and television industries can now use computer generated imagery (CGI) instead of animals in their work. Captive animal businesses will always claim they provide an “educational” experience, but displaying a few reptiles at parties, shopping malls or schools will never educate anyone about how these animals really live in their natural environments. In any case, once the “show” is over, it’s back to their cages until the next booking for these unfortunate captives.
Whatever happens as a result of the investigation into Cinemazoo, it can only be a good thing if its days are numbered and animal rental agencies become a thing of the past.
*Other B.C. animal agencies include: Action Animals, The Fright Stuff and Animal Insight.