Monday, 3 November 2014

Ambivalent About Shimura Zoo

Primates as pets~ not OK.

We don't watch a lot of broadcast TV (we have hulu), but one show we have been turning on regularly is Tensai! Shimura Doubutsuen, a variety show about animals hosted by comedian Shimura Ken, probably best known to the internet for this sketch (the show ran from 1987-1993, not sure when the specific clip aired):

 At first I was really against watching Shimura Doubutsuen for a number of ethical reasons, particularly the frequent appearance of Pan-kun the chimp, the featuring of exotic pets and the whole concept of zoos in general. Tiger really wanted to watch it, though, and I believe it is more constructive to watch a show I object to with him and talk about what bothers me as we go rather than banning him from watching something he is interested in. So, we started watching it, and although I have the same concerns now as I did then, I can also see the good the show does in promoting rescue dogs and positive training approaches.

Shimura Ken travels Japan with his rescue-dog Chibi, drawing crowds whenever they go and showing a cute and well-mannered dog with frequent references to his past as a 捨てられた犬, an abandoned dog. The good this must do in promoting awareness of rescues and raising the image and status of rescue dogs is obviously very valuable. Since we have started watching it regularly the show has also been featuring updates on two seriously traumatised nihon-ken who have been rescued and are being rehabilitated by the programme. Having spent their lives confined in a tiny space the two dogs were at first afraid to even come out of their kennel, but on a recent episode one was not only able to take a short walk outdoors but even raised her tail, probably for the first time in her life. I'm not the slightest bit embarressed to say that I cried a little bit during that episode.

And yet, Pan-kun. There are just so many issues that make performing chimpanzees fundamentally unethical (see, and I cringe every time he comes on screen (less often now since he was "retired" after mauling a handler). And the exotic pets. And then there are the things that aren't exactly immoral but are just stupid and annoying, like recurring guest "animal psychic" Heidi Wright and the exaggerated performance of foreignness the three "hafu" hosts of the Japanese dog breed segment put on (follow the nihon ken on facebook though, they are ADORABLE).

Does the good outweigh the bad? If you watch (or purposefully don't watch) the show, please leave a comment and let me know what you think.
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  1. I find zoos so difficult to enjoy too. The enclosures, the bored animals, the sheer number of animals world wide who live in zoos...I think I would cry at what you saw too. ;(

    1. Yes! A lot of the zoo segments on this show are about building more "natural" habitats for the animals, but I feel like that's band-aiding a fundamentally flawed system :/ Similarly, although the show does great work promoting the idea that pets are for life and that rescues can make great pets, they don't promote de-sexing or draw attention to the problems inherent in buying animals from pet shops.

  2. I used to have mixed feelings about Shimura Ken's relationship with pankun, until I saw an episode of that show that has a bunch of foreigners versus a bunch of Japanese talk about different issues (I don't think it's on anymore). They had an episode on animal rights and Shimuraken and pankun came on. I felt the real love and affection that Shimura Ken feels for Pankun, who he has been with since he was very small. Since then, I felt I made an exception for just their relationship. It's weird. I'm probably a hypocrite, but that's how I came to feel.

    1. Well, we're all hypocritical in some ways ;) I object to the whole idea of zoos, but I also quite enjoy watching the section of the show where what's-his-name tries to build solutions to various problems for the animals!

  3. I like Shimura's Zoo ! Pan-kun is cute.
    My favorite TV shows:

    (I like zoos, too)


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