Variable Bush Viper (Atheris squamigera)
Fear Factor, NBC’s insane but ridiculously popular reality series, iscoming back to television to entertain millions of viewers with their “gross-out” and “stunt” challenges that involve animal mistreatment and abuse.
On the show, contests compete for prize money by accepting challenges that often involve eating a live animal, disgusting animal product, or sitting in an aquarium with hundreds of scared animals. While on the air throughout the early 00s, Fear Factor was under fire from animal rights activists. NBC received thousands of complaints from concerned viewers asking for animals on the show to be treated better but NBC did not listen. The controversy fueled the popularity of the show and grew it’s viewership to close to 14 million a week.
Each episode contained a “gross-out” and “stunt” feature. The gross-outs almost always involved eating a vile animal product such as an underdeveloped duck fetus (pic above) or a fisheye and worm pizza covered in bile (I’m not making this up). After conquering their fear of food poisoning, contests performed a stunt which also required animals. Most of the animal stunts involved contestants sitting a tub filled with snakes, spiders, or fish where animals were often accidentally or intentionally killed.
After numerous injuries and animal deaths, trainers began to refuse to work on Fear Factor. The American Humane Association (AHA), who oversees the use of animals for TV, said that the show features clear cut cases of animal abuse and mistreatment especially (and most obviously) in contests that required contestants kill animals in order to win. They condemned the show for its cruelty and said it would never be eligible for the AHA humane rating so along as it continued.
Are we really at such a loss for ideas for TV shows that we have to bring everything back five years after it gets cancelled?
This is one show that should never come back into existence. Eating or abusing an animal does not mean you conquered your fear. In my experience, it takes more courage to speak up for animals than it does to participate in their abuse.