Attenborough defends 'wildlife porn'

New TV series ignores conservation in quest for global audience, say environmentalists

A A A

Sir David Attenborough yesterday hit back at allegations that his latest blockbuster series, is "wildlife porn" because it does not highlight dangers to the world's environment.

The distinguished natural history broadcaster said that Planet Earth, starting on BBC1 tonight, "will help persuade people that this planet is worth conserving".

But top environmentalists say that the series, the most ambitious the BBC's Natural History Unit has ever made, has missed a vital opportunity to convey to a worldwide audience the message that humanity is driving countless species to extinction.

The series, which was shot over four years and at 200 locations, contains much of the most marvellous wildlife footage ever shown. Although Sir David has campaigned for countless environmental causes, the script he narrates says little about species at risk.

The first episode opens with awe-inspiring shots of a polar bear emerging from hibernation, but does not mention, as The Independent on Sunday reported last month, that the species is threatened by global warming.

It also contains unprecedented film of a snow leopard hunting, but does not say that the big cat is itself endangered by poaching and the destruction of its habitat.

Sir David told The Independent on Sunday last night, "I did not have much of an editorial input to the series, but I would defend it. It aims to show the glories of the world."

Unless people saw these glories they would not care enough to take action to save them. "No one can be worried about the Arctic unless they are concerned about polar bears."

Zac Goldsmith, the editor of The Ecologist and deputy head of the group set up by David Cameron to review the Conservatives' green policies, says he became an environmentalist through watching Sir David's programmes: "I grew up with his stuff. As you follow it, you fall in love with the world. Then you learn its all under siege."

But Tony Juniper, executive director of Friends of the Earth, said: " The point has been passed when we can expect the inspiration of such programmes alone to make people care. The message needs to be spelled out much more clearly and Sir David is one of the few people who can get it across around the world."

Robert Napier , Chief Executive of WWF-UK, praised Sir David, who has been a trustee of the organisation for a total of 20 years, for his commitment to the environment. But he called the series "a missed opportunity to get across to millions of people what is happening to the wildlife species on which we all depend, and what they can do to save it".

Paul Toyn, director of the environmental group Article 13, called the series "wildlife porn", because species were being exploited in being depicted as if they were not under threat.

Alastair Fothergill, the executive producer of the series, retorted: "I just don't believe that nine o'clock on a Sunday evening is the time, necessarily, for heavy environmental messages."

Sir David points out that he has also done programmes specifically about conservation and the environment, and that he is now working on two programmes on global warming, to be shown on BBC1 later this year. A second series of Planet Earth this autumn will be accompanied by conservationist programmes on BBC4.

But environmentalists say that these will not reach the same mass audience worldwide as the heartstoppingly spectacular series that starts tonight.

Additional research by Nadia Gilani

Life and Style
life
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
One in six drivers cannot identify a single one of the main components found under the bonnet of an average car
motoringOne in six drivers can't carry out basic under-bonnet checks
Environment
environmentCrop pests are 'grave threat to global food security'
News
i100
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash
tvSimon Cowell blasts BBC for breaking 'gentlemen's agreement' in scheduling war
Arts and Entertainment
Shady character: Jon Hamm as sports agent JB Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm
filmReview: Jon Hamm finally finds the right role on the big screen in Million Dollar Arm
News
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
people
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Sport
footballAnd Liverpool are happy despite drawing European champions
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Secondary English Teacher - requ...

Science Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Calling all science teachers! Ra...

Technology Teacher - Food & Textiles

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Food Tech/Textiles Teacher We ...

Head of Marketing (Online & Offline, Media, Digital, Strategy)

£85000 - £100000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing - Slough, Berkshi...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone