In a draft document issued by Ezemvelo KZN wildlife and headed a€˜KZN ex situ Wild animal policy statement’ issued on the 14 August, the following paragraph pertaining to the Film and Television industry appeared:
Modern best-practice obviates against the use of wild animals as pets or for entertainment to perform in circuses/films or as working animals. There is a recognised high risk of human injury and animal welfare compromise associated with these activities, as well as ethical considerations.
The draft document called for responses and concerns to be submitted by the 15 September.
Immediate reaction was voiced by Jim Stockley on behalf of Stockley Trained Animals and Brian Boswell’s Circus, excerpts of which appear below:
“KZN Wildlife are drafting new policies and protocols for dealing with wild animals. As is the modern trend and current law, they are following a “consultative process”. It seems the process has been going on for some time yet we (who operate a circus, a registered Zoo and are one of the bigger suppliers of trained animals to the Film Industry) have never been consulted on this matter and only found out about it by pure chance yesterday (30 August 2006).
“It would seem that a policy which started out to look at new rules to govern animals in rehabilitation and the like, has been hijacked by a small but vocal group of Animal Rights Activists who would like to see the breeding and keeping of animals in captivity banned and the use of all animals in entertainment (including FILM) completely prohibited. We only have until the 15 September to make comment or lodge objections.
The entire notion is un-constitutional and unsound in law BUT if it is allowed to go through and gets adopted as policy THEN we have to go through a legal process to overturn it, and that could take months. In the meantime all filming with animals in KZN would probably be banned”.
“If this policy on keeping, breeding, training and exhibiting animals is allowed to stand in KZN and results in our inability to keep or train animals, then we will no longer be able to offer any of you any of the animals that we currently supply for your Productions. We need industry and political pressure to be brought to bear on KZN Wildlife to engage with licensed animal trainers, Circus, Zoo & Aquarium Professionals as well as Film Industry representatives to discuss their perceived problems and find solutions. “
Further response was received from Philo Pieterse of Philo Films:
“The severity of the proposed ban by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife will have an unprecedented financial impact on the South African Film Industry as a whole.
“Jim Stockley, Brian Boswell and their team, which consist of more than 15 professional animal trainers and handlers, are the most professional group of trainers and handlers in the South African Film Industry. This view will be shared by most Industry professionals.
“Brian Boswell owns Brian’s Circus and both Jim and Brian are situated on a beautiful estate a few kilometres outside Pietermaritzburg which estate they have owned for several years. The now tamed and trained elephants, giraffe, zebra roam freely. They also have many other wild animals. All, or most, of these animals appear in Brian’s Circus and/or are trained for the Film Industry.
“For as long as I can remember both Jim and Brian’s animals have acted in numerous local and International feature films and commercials that have been produced in South Africa. The care taken during the filming process or during down time on-set is not only supervised by Jim and Brian but there is also a representative of the Animal Anti-Cruelty League (AACL) present at all times.
“A signed-off document from the Animal Anti-Cruelty League (AACL) is required by all local and foreign producers which document must state that no animals were stressed or abused in any way during the filming process. This statement appears on the end credits of all feature films and TV dramas.
“Our Government, through the NFVF and other associated bodies, have gone out of their way to promote South Africa as a film destination. We as an Industry have identified KZN as an unspoilt film location. KZN is more competitive in its pricing structure than the Cape which, in my opinion, has been spoilt by International tourism.
“Should this proposed ban on filming wild animals become effective it will not only impact the South African Film Industry financially but it will most certainly impact the rest of South Africa as it will mean that the estates on which these wild animals are presently cared for will have to either be closed down or relocated to other parts of the country which, in my opinion, would not happen.
“Philo Films recently produced the film ELEPHANT TALES which was filmed on Jim Stockley and Brian Boswell’s estate in KZN. This film is being distributed worldwide by Myriad Pictures (USA). We have produced numerous commercials involving wild animals. No incidents were reported on any of our productions. A ban of this sort will be detrimental to productions that our company has scheduled in the first quarter of next year.
“I strongly urge the NFVF as well as all associated bodies to take action in this regard.”
The full context of the Ezemvelo KZN wildlife draft policy document can be read under www.kznwildlife.com/scoping_comment.htm