A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

What’s Up with the Genesis Awards?

HSUS wins the big boo-boo award


I watched the Genesis Awards on Animal Planet over the weekend. It’s a sort of Golden Globes for movies, documentaries, news shows, comedy shows, etc. that have promoted the cause of animal protection.

Originally created by actress Gretchen Wyler to encourage the media to cover more animal protection issues, it’s inevitably a white-bread, Hollywood event that’s always been too earnest and cringingly self-conscious. Now in the hands of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), this year’s event, which played over the weekend on Animal Planet in the off-hours of Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 8 a.m, didn’t just leave you cringing, but rather gasping.

I can only say I’m glad it wasn’t shown in prime time.

Big No-No #1

Ten minutes into the show, a commercial comes on for, of all things, SeaWorld – the marine circus that’s a complete disaster for killer whales, dolphins, sea lions and other animals, and has even been cited by the federal government for “willful neglect.”

Their TV commercial was aimed right at family audiences, with children petting captive dolphins and oohing and aahing at killer whales doing tricks in their tiny pools. This is a YouTube version of the ad:

Now, I know that the HSUS doesn’t get to pick the ads that air on Animal Planet, but did they seriously not know that SeaWorld was going to be a sponsor? (The ad aired twice on the show.) If they didn’t know, why not? And if they did, why didn’t they raise holy hell and walk away from the whole relationship with Animal Planet?

HSUS even has its own marine mammal department, where senior scientist Naomi Rose works to bring an end to keeping these animals at SeaWorld and other marine circuses. She must be groaning in horror.

Big No-No #2

There were four nominations for Best Feature Film: Rio, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, War Horse, and, incredibly, Dolphin Tale.

Dolphin Tale tells the story of Winter, the dolphin who was rescued after losing her tail. She’s been at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida ever since. But the conditions she lives in are appalling. Hoping to raise money for a better facility, the aquarium welcomed thousands of people in to see her. One of the visitors, a teacher, was deeply upset by what she saw there and sent us the video she’d taken of Winter trying to hide from all the noise and shouting:

The aquarium’s assertions that she’s a happy camper living a great new life simply don’t hold water. And while Clearwater claims to be a charitable hospital, it operates just like another money-making venture that promotes the marine circuses by putting dolphins on show for ignorant, if well-meaning, members of the general public and their children. Worse yet, it’s even making money by putting its “patients” in swim-with-the-dolphins” programs.

None of this was mentioned in the promotion of the movie, nor by the HSUS. What’s up with this?

Other No-No #1

bill-maher-genesis-awards-050512Bill Maher as a celebrity presenter. I used to be a mild fan of comedian/commentator Bill Maher, who, while not being very well-versed in animal issues, has at least helped to promote them.

The big problem now is that he drinks the PETA Kool-Aid without any of the honest criticism he brings to other causes he supports (like the Democratic Party). Ingrid Newkirk gets a complete pass from him on the fact that PETA kills more than 90 percent of the animals they bring to their premises. (In 2011, they reported the mass slaughter of 97 percent of the animals delivered into their care.)

Maher never questions any of this; he just goes on shilling for PETA. You can’t help wondering whether he just wants to be liked by them.

Other No-No #2

The big award of the evening – the Wyler Award, named after founder Gretchen Wyler – was presented by spiritual guru Deepak Chopra, whom I’ve seen on various occasions on TV saying that he agrees with vivisection “if it really helps us humans.”

All of this in the space of an hour on a show that’s supposed to be honoring people who are protecting animals.

You can forgive all the tinsel nonsense that surrounds giving awards to people in Hollywood on a show that’s falling over itself to look like the Golden Globes. But unless it gets an entirely new selection committee, Genesis is rapidly going to be turning into an Exodus.