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Animal Foe-Paws

Animal rights group the Ark Trust Inc. cites offensive media in its annual blacklist

By Genevieve Roja

SIX YEARS AGO, someone approached Gretchen Wyler, a Broadway star who has appeared in the original Guys and Dolls, Damn Yankees and as Sweet Charity on London's West End, about compiling a year-end report on how the media has treated animals.

At the time Wyler ran the Ark Trust Inc., a nonprofit media watchdog based in Encino, Calif. The organization, founded in 1991, commends those with pro-animal messages publicized and illustrated in newspapers, magazines, television and film. Winners will receive the animal rights equivalent of an Oscar at the 15th annual Genesis Awards on March 10, an event sure to be jam-packed with animal-loving celebs. This year's awardees include Discovery Channel's "Why Dogs Smile and Chimpanzees Cry" in the Cable Documentary category and the Washington Post for its article "For the Birds," a winner in the category for National Newspaper Feature. Those deemed winners by the Ark Trust are highly commended for their efforts; those who shamelessly trivialize the afflictions of the four-legged, beware. You might have made the "Foe Paw Report."

It reads more like a Santa's List--amassed by animal rights watchers and activists--of who's been naughty and not so nice. Take, for instance, the Ark Trust's disdain for the Michael Douglas vehicle Wonder Boys: "Middle-age professor impulsively shoots a dog and puts him in the trunk of his car which, throughout the film, becomes the subject of insensitive jokes at the dog's expense. Foe-Paw Comment: Nothing wonderful about this old boy." Or wonderful about last summer's runaway reality hit, Survivor. "Reality-based summer series features castaways impaling and beheading fish, rats and chickens in order to eat. Focus was on eating animals to survive, with no alternative eating options presented. Foe-Paw Comment: We'd rather watch Gilligan's Island." Or about Road Trip, in which a mini subplot features a maniacal Tom Green hell-bent on a snake feeding. "Unleash the fury!" he cries out to Mitch the snake, who is seemingly bored with the white mouse dropped into his cage. Green, in frustration, picks the mouse out of the cage by its tail and clamps his mouth around its body. Foe-Paw assessment: "We'll pass on this juvenile trip." Green--who once sucked a cow's udder on MTV's The Tom Green Show--made the list again when he guest-hosted Saturday Night Live, appearing on a skit titled "Dog Show," in which he enlisted the help of a squealing piglet and two purse-size dogs. "Green makes animal lovers see red," said the Foe-Paw Report. Wyler saw red that night too, as she sat in the audience during the live taping in New York.

"They bring in this sweet little piglet, and there were two little dogs in the skit," she recalls telling a co-worker. "The pig, I promise you, never stopped crying little pig screams."

Wyler, who says as a chorus girl on Broadway she used to save up to buy a mink coat but abhors the idea now, can't imagine why the public and some hard-hitting television shows such as The Today Show and 20/20, and magazines such as Time and the Wall Street Journal, mock her animal protection rights crusade, especially when elephants and other exotic animals are being exploited in Barnum and Bailey sideshows, dogs and cats are being boiled alive in Korea, barnyard cows are injected with growth hormones and Persian lambs are being beheaded while giving birth.

"Maybe it's a backlash to the forward steps we've been taking [in animal rights]," offers Wyler. "I think people are sort of wanting to laugh. But I've never understood [that]. I can't imagine the suffering that little animals go through."

For more information about the Foe-Paw Report and the Ark Trust, Inc., log on to www.arktrust.org.

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From the January 11-17, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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