It all gets to be too much: Animals don’t have the same sense of privacy or modesty that we have. But a university professor–of course!–claims that nature documentaries violate animals’ putative “right to privacy.” From the story:
Dr Brett Mills from the University of East Anglia argues that while wildlife programmes can play a vital role in engaging citizens in environmental debates, in order to ‘do good’ they must inevitably deny many species the right to privacy. Published in the current issue of Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, Dr Mills’ study analyses the ‘making of’ documentaries that accompanied the BBC wildlife series Nature’s Great Events (2009). Exploring the debates on ethics, animal welfare and rights and human rights, Dr Mills suggests that animals have a right to privacy but this is turned into a challenge for the production teams, who use newer forms of technology to overcome species’ desire not to be seen.
Right. They’re naked! And notice the blatant anthropomorphizing:
Dr Mills said: “It might at first seem odd to claim that animals might have a right to privacy. Privacy, as it is commonly understood, is a culturally human concept. The key idea is to think about animals in terms of the public/private distinction. We can never really know if animals are giving consent, but they often do engage in forms of behaviour which suggest they’d rather not encounter humans, and we might want to think about equating this with a desire for privacy. “When confronted with such ‘secretive’ behaviour the response of the wildlife documentary is to read it as a challenge to be overcome with the technologies of television. The question constantly posed by wildlife documentaries is how animals should be filmed: they never ask whether animals should be filmed at all.”
A justification could be made for filming animals as they roam plains and deserts and engage in hunting activities because these are ‘public’ events, which take place in locations which include many other animals, and in which the animal being filmed makes no explicit attempt to not be seen. Yet animal activities which might equate with human notions of the private are treated in a way which suggests the public/private distinction does not hold. For example, many species could be read as desiring not to be seen — animals in burrows and nests have constructed a living space which equates with the human concept of the home, and commonly do this in locations which are, by their very nature, explicitly hidden, often for practical purposes. “Human notions of privacy which rest on ideas of location or activity are ignored in terms of animals. It doesn’t matter what an animal does, or where it does it, it will be deemed fair game for the documentary,” said Dr Mills.
Animals aren’t people! “Consent” is a foreign concept to them in this context, and there is no such thing as private and public spheres in the natural world. They act secretly because they instinctively are trying to avoid being eaten, not because they want personal privacy. Good grief.