Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Government ad preys on vultures

Posted: 20 September 2006


The latest TV ad for the Government’s Department for Education and Skills website for people going to university, Aim Higher, has been condemned by Animal Defenders International (ADI) for using two performing vultures as well as computer-generated images of the same vultures. The ad, aimed at potential higher education students and their parents, was made by London agency DLKW (Delaney Lund Knox Warren) and depicts a young university student being stalked by vultures. The vultures represent her student loans, inferring that when she repays the loans, the vultures will fly away.

Jan Creamer, ADI’s chief executive, claimed: “This is the second time in a year that we have protested at the Government’s use of performing animals in its TV ads – last summer a working family tax credit TV ad featured performing seals and penguins. The government should set a better example than to use performing animals in their advertising, as these animals suffer in captivity deprived of normal social interaction with their species. Even if captive-bred, their wild instincts remain. The harsh training regimes enforced by trainers and suppliers of animals for the TV and movie industries add to their distress.”

The two vultures used were Ruppell’s Griffon Vultures (Gyps ruppellii). It is highly unnatural for birds that in the wild would spend the majority of their time air-borne and cover great distances, to be forced to be relatively inactive on a film set, having being transported in cages with no opportunity to express their natural behaviour.

Such vultures needs in the wild cannot be replicated in captivity, as they are massive birds (up to 1 metre high, with a wing span of 2.5 metres, weighing 17-20 lb) , and so require a great amount of space per bird. In the wild they travel long distances, up to 93 miles reaching speeds of up to 22 miles an hour from their nest to search for food.

Producer of the ad, Lauraine Bhuglah from the Central Office of Information, confirmed that the shoot took two days and two real vultures were used. The other vultures seen thronging the student in the ad, were computer-generated images taken from pictures of the real vultures. The vultures were supplied by Amazing Animals in Oxfordshire but as the shoot took place at Nottingham University, they were transported in cages in a truck and subjected to a return journey of over 5 hours.

Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture (Gyps ruppellii)
Found in central and north-east Africa as well as southern Europe, this type of vulture breeds in Europe and migrates to Africa over winter 1 3. Its habitat is traditionally high on cliffs although it prefers open, arid land to search for food 3. As a species they are very social, unlike some other vulture species. They tend to nest in colonies of up to 100 pairs or more 3 .

Although not officially listed as endangered, the griffon vulture is threatened and decreasing in much of its European range 1. They can be aggressive when in possession of food, particularly towards other vultures. Feeding on carcasses of dead animals, they are purely a scavenging species and do not hunt their own prey 3.

Like other vultures, in the wild they leave their roost about two hours after sunrise and spend the majority of their time on the wing, searching for food, especially during the middle of the day . This behaviour cannot performed in captivity and even the biggest aviary would prove inadequate.

ADI’s campaign to end the suffering of animals in entertainment – from live shows like circuses to films and TV ads – has gained momentum over the past year as it has taken aim at some of the world’s major brands such as Coca Cola, Toyota, Saab, Diageo, D&G, Abbey, Barclaycard, Visa, Sony Ericcson, Unilever, Big Brother producer Endemol and organisations such as the GMB Union and HM Revenue & Customs.

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