Saturday 02 July 2016 | 30

Fort Boyard : circus and vermin

Fort Boyard is back on our screens with its big cats and mishandled "vermin". One Voice is firmly opposed to these cruel games and demands the ban of all animals trained for television.

Hr blog

At the same time as the movement in many French towns against circuses with animals gains ground, France 2 is screening the second edition of its televised 'middle-age style' circus show, Fort Boyard, which starts this Saturday. 

It is a shame that a public TV channel is broadcasting these types of programmes. Without doubt, the sports challenges and the boldness of the competitors are admirable, which alone is worth seeing. But the Fort Boyard concept repeats the Fear Factor principal, a phobia based game which involves the presence of some four hundred animals shut up night and day, from June to August in a fort in the La Rochelle sea, who are used to scare the players, make the spectators tremble, and to impress viewers.

The 'ferocious' big cats are always part of the game, even if in the real world it should be their decimation that is generating concern, not them. Myn, Cali and Kanji, the tigers in the programme, were born in captivity. Trained from the beginning of their lives, they mope around all day long in their damp cells on the ground floor, bored, beneath the Treasure room. They wouldn't hurt a fly, well aware of the price they would pay for a roar too far. Yet they perform the role of the blood thirsty tiger. Big cats don't cope well with production sets and bright stage lighting. This is why contemporary cinema has stopped using them, as well as large primates and other animals, and has replaced their use by computer images. But French TV hasn't stopped, or at least, not yet.

The eels, maggots, cockroaches, bats, craps, toads, grasshoppers, frogs, lizards, flies, tarantulas, rats, scorpions, snakes, mice and other little swarming creatures who participate against their will in the Fort Boyard challenges since 1998 play into the old cliché, from ancient times, defining 'vermin'. 

Vermin, for the much older generations, was the dark mass of pests swarming under the wooden boards of the thatched cottages, and descended from the devil. According to the chemist Van Helmont, this shady fauna was born spontaneously, a generation at a time, in a dirty shirt rolled into a ball in a bottle, in a time when the noxious vapours of pests, black bile and rat invasions were chased by processions. This same evil vermin was thrown at people's heads to treat anxiety. Just some poor rats that drown, some spiders that are crushed, some cockroaches that are trodden on, some snakes handled violently, some mice bred to feed the snakes, all conscious and sentient beings, who experience fear and are capable of suffering.

By incessantly repeating the same phobic stereotypes regarding 'vermin' and big cats, France 2 can maintain the public's interest. Nothing is more fun than reaffirming old anxieties and preconceived ideas. But surely the role of public television is to move forward, to distance itself from this blind clamouring for market position and to renew TV content with modern paradigms? Jacques Chancel said: "We mustn't give people what they like, we must give them what they could like"; a citizen-based approach, based on morals and respect for the living, for example? Surely people would like this!

Yvon Godefroid
Hr blog

In the subject

The torture has ended for Hannah, Céleste, Patty and Marli.
Unprecedented in France: the action of One Voice results in four lionesses being seized from a circus because of ill-treatment.

Comments 30

I accept that publication of my comments is subject to the code of conduct.

Anita | Monday 31 August 2020

Decent lives for all living creatures

Karin | Sunday 26 July 2020

Stop exploiting animals for human entertainment. The shows Don’t need the animals to be exciting - the challenges in the cells are enough!

Persicot angélique | Friday 24 July 2020

Stop à toute utilisation animale pour des spectacles.
Stop aux fauves à la télé pour des émissions et des jeux

Jack | Tuesday 21 July 2020

Remplacez les par les animateurs on verra s'ils apprécient le confort du fort..