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BCT response to 'Bear Grylls: Born Survivor'

1 June 2010

The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) has been working with the international conservation and animal welfare community to investigate the footage of the TV presenter Bear Grylls smoking out, swatting and then stamping on bats in Asia. During the programme, several bats are killed deliberately and this was treated as a game. The footage has recently been aired in the UK and across Europe on the Discovery Channel and on the internet. In Britain the programme series appears as Bear Grylls: Born Survivor (in the United States it is titled Man vs. Wild).

We feel that the footage is very damaging to bat conservation, because it treats the reckless persecution of bats as entertainment and may encourage others to harm or kill bats for fun. Following investigation, we believe that the incident took place in a country where bats are not protected by law. However, viewers in Europe are not informed that copying the presenters actions would be illegal in many countries.

Bear Grylls is a prominent public figure and a role model, as Chief Scout at The Scout Association and ambassador of RARE (whose mission is to “to conserve imperilled species and ecosystems around the world by inspiring people to care about and protect nature”). For this reason his conduct, and the influence it may have, is of great concern. Furthermore, we believe that in the UK the programme is in breach of Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code because it may encourage crime.

To limit the damage Bear Grylls and the Discovery Channel have done to bat conservation BCT, in collaboration with Bat Conservation International and other national and international conservation organisations are calling for:

  • the Discovery Channel to ensure this edition of Bear Grylls: Born Survivor and related footage is not aired again and that this footage is removed from YouTube, the Discovery Channel website and all other communications; 
  • a public apology from Bear Grylls; 
  • the support from Bear Grylls and the Discovery Channel for bat conservation efforts in the region and where the filming took place.

We are currently awaiting responses from the Discovery Channel and Bear Grylls.

If you share our concerns about the message this episode of Bear Grylls: Born Survivor / Man Vs. Wild portrays, we recommend you contact the Discovery Channel directly via the 'Viewer Relations' facility on their communications website:
Discovery Channel viewer relations 

If you have seen the episode in the UK, you could also make a complaint to Ofcom:
Complain to Ofcom

The following letter to Ofcom from the Bat Conservation Trust outlines which part of Ofcom Broadcasting Code has been breached:
BCT letter of complaint to Ofcom 

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