The advocacy group is protesting the use of live animals in CBS’ new drama “Zoo.” The show, which premieres Tuesday, is based on James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge’s novel of the same title, and follows a global outbreak of animal attacks on humans.
“By producing a show that exploits wild animals, including lions, CBS has proved that it’s out of sync with public opinion at a time when people are shunning SeaWorld’s captive orca sideshows, states and counties are passing laws banning wild animal acts and private ownership, and Ringling Bros. is taking elephants off the road,” Brittany Peet, PETA’s foundation deputy director of captive animal law enforcement, said in a statement.
Star James Wolk told reporters at a Los Angeles press junket for the show in May that precautions were taken to ensure the actors felt comfortable around the wild animals during filming. “All the animals that we’ve had down on set — and it’s been tons of animals, because it should also be said there hasn’t been a ton of CGI, there’s been a lot of real animals on set — they all come with trainers,” he said.
The animals included an 800-pound grizzly bear and a lion.
“It’s exciting from an actor’s standpoint, too,” he continued. “Your palms start to sweat, your heart starts to beat and you can’t help that when you’re around a lion or a bear. We have trainers on set every time we’re down there. And it’s been a real, as far as these things go, an efficient process with the animals.”
PETA took issue with the use of real lions, as opposed to computer generated ones. “Lions belong in the wild, not confined to tiny cages and forced to perform tricks, often under the threat of beatings,” the statement said. “CBS should employ only humane and versatile computer-generated imagery, as so many other productions have done.”
Like most actors, co-executive producer Jeff Pinkner said the animals were prone to falling asleep — sometime mid-scene. “One of the fun things is they’re actors, but they’re animals,” Pinkner said. “They can be trained, but when the moment happens, they don’t necessarily behave the way you’re expecting.”
The show’s co-executive producer, Scott Rosenberg, assured reporters that the show will not vilify animals in any way. In fact, “The animals, in a strange way, are the hero,” he said.
“Listen, we all love animals and nobody wants to create an environment that’s anti-animal,” Rosenberg said. “That said, in July, when mom, dad, Buddy and sis are sitting on the couch and they just finished watching episode five of ‘Zoo’ and the dog is sitting over there, Skippy the Spaniel. … We want the whole world to fear their Schnauzer, then we’ve done our job right.”
Although the animals are the treat, Rosenberg noted that all five lead characters love the beasts.
“It’s the weirdest thing, because the whole season we’re writing, like, scary animal, scary animal, but at the end of the day, they actually want to heal the animals, not so much to save the world, which of course is part of it, but it’s truly to save these creatures that they love, that they’ve made their lives’ work and dedication to,” he said.