Former 'Price Is Right' host pens critical letter to network

By James Hibberd
June 23, 2016 at 06:57 PM EDT
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
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Bob Barker says the price is too high for CBS’ Zoo.

The former The Price Is Right host and longtime animal activist sent CBS Television Studios a letter Thursday asking that the production cease using live animals in its animals-run-amuck thriller, and instead create the creatures with CGI.

“As former host of the longest-running show on CBS, I am writing to you after hearing from my friends at PETA that your network continues to allow wild animals to be used on Zoo, despite learning that, when used for entertainment, big cats and other animals are torn away from their mothers, subjected to abusive training methods, and locked inside tiny cages,” Barker wrote. “I urge you to end this exploitation and adopt a network-wide policy banning the use of wild animals in future CBS programming.”

Zoo retuns on June 28. The adaptation of James Patterson’s novel was last summer’s most-watched scripted series, but the thriller has been under attack by PETA for its use of real animals behind the scenes. Previously the production reportedly dropped plans to use a controversial animal trainer for the show.

“While I was relieved that Zoo dropped plans to use notorious animal trainer Michael Hackenberger this season after PETA notified producers that he had been caught on camera violently whipping a tiger — for which he is now facing five charges of cruelty to animals — eyewitness investigations and whistleblower reports have revealed that physical and psychological abuse of wild animals used for film and television is standard practice,” continued Barker, who hosted CBS’ iconic morning game show for 35 years until departing in 2007. “The only way to stop this cruelty is to replace the use of captive wild animals in your shows with the creative, versatile, and humane technology that exists today, such as computer-generated imagery. As demonstrated by productions such as Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book, Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, and the upcoming David Yates film, The Legend of Tarzan, in which large numbers of animals have been created with such technology, it’s time for CBS to step up for animals and follow suit.”

PETA has taken out ads across the industry protesting the series, which first riled the organization last year after producers stated in interviews that they strived to use live animals whenever possible in the production. PETA claimed producers had assured them of precisely the opposite.

CBS responded to the letter with this statement:  “We have the greatest respect for PETA and its cause. The health, safety and welfare of animals in our care during filming continues to be our highest priority.”

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