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Animal Planet does a Disservice to All Animals when it Promotes Abuse

On Monday February 14, 2005 at 8:00 pm, Animal Planet's "Pet Star" showed a pair of "singing" guinea pigs. Any cavy lover will recognize the behavior exhibited on this program as animal abuse. These guinea pigs clearly display pain by their sounds and behaviors as a result of their treatment during this clip.

Guinea pig owners are a varied group of people -- pet lovers who also have cats, dogs, and other pets. Many of us believe Animal Planet's advertisers should be boycotted. This kind of programming is a terrible disservice to the community.

As of March 2013, a short clip of the segment is still available on Animal Planet's website.
Link to Clip

Summary of Show

bamboleo   writes:

Two girls are called out to perform their trick with their "musical guinea pigs." Mario Lopez asks them what the guinea pigs' names are, and they tell him they're named Ginger and Alice. He asks to hold Ginger for a moment and tells them that he used to own a guinea pig once, and that Ginger is very cute and chubby. He asks them if they make good pets, and the older girl says that they make great pets, and that they are calm and quiet. He asks if the two guinea pigs are the only pets they have at home, and the girls tell him that they only have some fish other than the guinea pigs. He asks them what grades they are in, and they tell him that they are in 9th and 6th grade.

Then he asks them what they're going to do with the guinea pigs, and they say that they're going to make them sing. He directs them over to two chairs where they take a seat and place the guinea pigs on their laps. The guinea pigs are facing out towards the girls' knees. The girls begin to sing "Old McDonald Had a Farm." They get to the point where there's usually an animal sound quoted, and instead of saying "oink oink" they take turns forcefully pushing the guinea pigs' hair forward. They are pushing from their rump to the middle of their back. They do this eight times during the song and once at the very end, nine times in total. Each time the pigs scream quite loud and pull their ears back, in fear. They look very scared. The camera goes to different judges' faces, and they are all laughing enthusiastically. Then at the very end they focus in on the two guinea pigs and Alice, the darker pig is closer to the camera.

The last scream is the loudest, with both pigs screaming together. Alice seems to be extremely upset, she has pulled her ears back and her eyes are bugging out...

Mario Lopez talks to them when they are done, and tells them that it was great, and that the pigs were on rhythm and that they knew their part. He compared their actions to a DJ with a mixing table, rubbing on records, but in their case they used their guinea pigs instead. Deborah, the first judge is laughing hysterically, while Jeff, the second judge is making squeezing motions with his hands in the air. Deborah is laughing so hard that she cannot talk, and holds up nine fingers as her score.

The second judge, Jeff, asks how long the girls have had the animals. The older girl says that they've had those particular guinea pigs for two years, but that they've had guinea pigs most of their lives. He responds by saying that he had a guinea pig once, and he was so excited that he got it on Christmas morning that he chased it around the house until it had a heart attack and died. He's apparently saying this as a joke, and the girls are laughing. He said that it was the funniest act of the day, makes the squeezing motion in the air with his hands again, and he gives them a ten. The third judge Bri also gives the girls a ten, and tells them it was really cool.

They end up in the finals, they have the second best score in all but end up losing out to a dog act.

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Angered Guinea Pig Owners Speak Out

JodiMN   writes the network:

"I have just finished watching Pet Star for the last time. I was watching Episode 12 and was disgusted at the "Musical Guinea pigs" segment. What those people did to those poor animals was the equivalent of pulling a cats tail to make it yowl. Pushing a guinea pigs hair in that manner is painful to them. So to see that treatment on Pet Star, on Animal Planet for the entertainment of your viewers is appalling. Would you air a segment like that if you could get laughs out of someone pulled a cats tail to make it sing?"

bamboleo   writes the network:

My comment is in regard to the episode of Pet Star that aired at 7pm central time on February 14th 2005.

I was excited to see that there were going to be guinea pigs featured on the show, but my excitement quickly turned to disgust when I saw what was happening to the animals.

I blame the airing of this episode on sheer IGNORANCE on the part of the network. The judges and audience members cannot be blamed for not knowing what was going on, but the pet owners and the people who allowed them to be featured on the show are guilty of a horrible lack of judgment.

Animal Planet is supposed to be a channel that educates people on the proper treatment of animals. Instead, tonight, Animal Planet broadcast a television show that teaches people how to be ignorant caretakers and educated America on the most efficient way to torture guinea pigs! Great programming!

The two girls on that show were putting those guinea pigs through great stress. People who don't own guinea pigs and aren't educated on the proper handling of guinea pigs don't know what their different communicative sounds mean. It is a FACT, that the screaming/squealing sound those guinea pigs were making, that was presented as "singing," is in actuality the way that guinea pigs express EXTREME distress, PAIN, and FEAR. This is the sound they make as a last resort, a cry for help. My own guinea pig has only made that sound when being stuck with a hypodermic needle, and I could hear it through the wall at the vet's office. It made me sick to my stomach then, and it made me sick to my stomach tonight to see those two guinea pigs crying out to a studio of people who were responding with laughing, clapping, and cheers of approval.

If there were a dog or a cat or a human on that stage, crying and screaming in legitimate pain and terror, and the audience was laughing and giving it "10 points" for its comedic effect I doubt that it would go over too well with viewers. Anyone who is educated on the proper care of guinea pigs I'm sure is as equally as UPSET and disturbed and sickened by what was broadcast nationwide tonight on Animal Planet as I am.

I believe the network needs to pull this episode from further broadcast. In a perfect world, Animal Planet would issue an apology and create some sort of intelligent segment on how to properly handle and care for guinea pigs, but I can't expect much of anything from a network that could air something so completely stupid and harmful in the first place.

DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS. Do not cause further torture by causing ignorant owners to try to make their guinea pigs "SING" like the ones on TV.

sus4rabbitsnpigs   notes:

They were pushing the hair the wrong way on the back, but I saw the kid squeeze the dark pig's belly alternately to get him to squeal differently. His poor eyes were wide open and he did not look happy.

cacosta   writes the Editor of the paper that featured this family and their guinea pigs:

This is in response to the article you ran in the February 6, 2005 edition of the paper.

A pair ofyoungsters were featured with their pet guinea pigs. These girls appeared on Animal Planet's show Pet Star (that aired February 14, 2005) with their "singing" guinea pigs. I watched the show and was sickened by what was displayed as entertainment. I was also ashamed to even know these pet owners were from my own small town. Those animals were tortured on that show while the judges and audience cheered and applauded. This "trick" was the equivalent to pulling a cat tail and making it scream. To those people that don't know how guinea pigs communicate, the sound that those animals made was of fear, anxiety and pain. If you want to hear a guinea pig make a "happy" noise then rattle a bag full of fresh greens during feeding time, DO NOT push it's hair forward or squeeze the animal.

These animals trusted that family to do no harm to them. That family has let them down. Pet owners need to get educated on what's best for the pets. They need to educate themselves on proper handling of their pets. They need to educate themselves on how their pets communicate with them. People need to educate themselves with the fact that guinea pigs are not "disposable pets" to be handled roughly by children.

I hope that the family reads this letter and thinks about how they treat their pets. I hope that they get the education that they so desperately need to be "good" guinea pig owners.

WindeSpirit   writes the network:

In regards of viewing the Pet Stars show on February 14th, 2005 that showed the girls with the 'singing' guinea pigs.

I settled down with one of my 6 guinea's to view the show after finding there was to be pigs on that night. But became quickly disappointed and trying to calm the fear my pigs was getting from hearing the ones being shown on Pet Star.

I am simply appalled and sickened to have seen what was being done to both of the guinea pigs. There clearly was no real 'trick' being done, this was plain torture to the animals. I viewed the show twice to be sure I was seeing correctly what was being done to these poor animals and indeed their hair was being pushed and then pigs being squeezed to make them squeal. And not any kind of squeal, this was sheer pain squeals. Would you let the viewing of a dog or cat with their hair being pulled and then their rumps 'vice gripped' till they howled in pain? Or maybe it is because you allowed it due to the fact there was no education learned prior to allowing these girls on your show, which I find hard to believe when you are a all species channel.

I found it quite maddening that everyone was 'laughing' at the torture of these poor animals and my deepest sympathies to the pigs that are in theses girls care. I hope they find a 'good' solid source of information and become better educated in these fragile animals.

mkkayla   writes the network:

I keep asking myself, Why? Why would a program that is supposed to celebrate animals allow/encourage torture of them? Pet Star last night had some guinea pigs on it that were tortured by their owners to make them 'sing'. I own twelve of these adorable creatures. One of the things that makes them unique (compared to other small animals) is their ability to communicate. They wheek for attention or food, they purr for contentment, chatter their teeth as a warning and can even chirp like a bird, but the noises those pigs last night were making is what they do in terror and pain. This was celebrated by you, the judges, and the audience. How many people are right now making their pigs 'sing' after watching that show? It truly sickens me to think about it. Please pull that show and make some sort of apology or explanation that this was WRONG and should not be tolerated or done by anyone, anywhere ever again! Please do what you can to repair the damage and PLEASE research these 'tricks' to be sure that something like this doesn't slip through the cracks again. Thank-you. Please let me know if/when an on air apology is going to be done, because until then, Animal Planet is banned in my house.

Barbara Osborn   writes the network:

"This is in regards to the Pet Star show that played on February 14 at 8:00 EST. The "Singing" Guinea Pigs were actually in pain. I have 11 guinea pigs and they are very vocal when happy and those sounds were NOT happiness. Those GP's were being hurt by those girls. GP's are very sensitive and when their fur is brushed in the wrong direction, it brings them great pain. I love your channel but please be aware that the distress of animals should not be aired on a pet friendly channel such as yours. This may cause others with GP's to "try" to make them sing. What undue pain is being caused to GP's tonight as a result of that program. Thank you for your attention to this matter and correct this on-air by issuing a correction to the care of GP's. "

Charybdis   notes:

I'm just so angry! I knew the video was bad ... but since I hadn't seen it, I didn't realize the intensity of those screams! ... boycott their advertisers ... notify the group that monitors animal abuse in the entertainment industry ... shame them into putting out not only 1) a public apology and 2) a warning to guinea pig owners not to 'try this at home.'

Etta Mae   notes:

There was a case of a broken backed pig at my old clinic. The kids were trying to make him "squeak" by pressing on his back. They were successful and the pig was euthanized for their efforts.

pinta   notes:

I'd be willing to bet those pigs have mites. I don't get screams of pain from my pigs if I rub their hair the wrong way - just glares. But [a] pig with mites would be in agony.

Poor Baby Cuzko   writes the network:

I am writing in regards to the Animal Planet show "Animal Stars" that was broadcast on February 14, 2005. In particular, to the act of two girls squeezing and pushing the backs of their guinea pigs to make them "sing" along with them. This act is not amusing. Those guinea pigs were in pain. An animal doesn't scream that loudly for the fun of it ... My guinea pig's cage is at the base of my television stand. When those guinea pigs started screaming, she ran under her tent for protection.

I find your programming to be very educational and informative, on both the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. Animal Planet claims to be for pets, airing programs like "Animal Precinct" which sole purpose is to help pets in bad situations. But this act on "Animal Stars" is promoting animal abuse and suffering. Not only by those two poor guinea pigs that those girls own, but by the viewers who own pigs that are now doing it, just to get a laugh.

I will not be watching Animal Planet anymore nor purchasing products that are advertised on that channel. I am contemplating not watching the Discovery Channel as well.

Guinea Pigs are for Life