Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Manifesto

We, the organizations, researchers, and divers who foresee the imminent extinction of the large shark species, demand a stop to Discovery Communication's dishonest use of sharks for profit.

Since 1987, Discovery Channel has annually presented 'Shark Week.' This week-long series of programs featuring sharks claims to present facts about sharks, and its popularity has earned the company billions of dollars.

Discovery Channel is owned by Discovery Communications, which claims to be “dedicated to upholding the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct.”

Discovery's scientific credibility and reputation has resulted in the wide-spread belief in the truth of the shows televised on Shark Week.

In reality, Discovery uses sharks for the horror-show effect that draws a wide audience. Shark Week dramatizes shark attacks, blood and the animals' unusual dentition, to frighten viewers. Since no true sea monsters have been discovered, Discovery has cast sharks in that role, following in the footsteps of the movie “Jaws.”

But “Jaws” was advertised as a fictional horror film, whereas Discovery presents its horror shows as scientific truth. A recent example consisted of stuffing a dummy's wet suit with fish pieces and letting the dummy snorkeller float at the surface. Not surprisingly, a tiger shark, who had been attracted to the area, tried to get to the food source by biting the 'snorkeller'. The viewers were not told that the dummy's wetsuit was filled with smelly fish parts, and Discovery presented the producer's fraudulent sequence as evidence that sharks are likely to attack any swimmer in the sea. This is just one of countless ways in which Discovery Communications has lied to its viewers to show sharks as dangerous.

The fact is that no shark species target humans for food and people all over the world swim and dive with sharks for pleasure—the same species that Discovery infers will attack and kill people.

Scientists who's work has been used for Discovery's Shark Week have found it twisted and misrepresented by the company. For those who are familiar with sharks, Shark Week is nothing more than tabloid journalism, and does not reflect modern scientific knowledge.

Until recently, even the dangers to sharks from overfishing was covered up by Discovery, because they considered conservation to be an unpopular subject.

So after Shark Week 2007, the authors, representing the Shark list (now The Shark Group), sent a letter to Discovery Channel, outlining the above concerns. It was signed by 352 people and resulted in a three and a half hour meeting with Discovery executives. The Shark Week phenomenon and lack of ethics in its portrayal of sharks was openly discussed, but Discovery's representatives saw no problem with it. While they did include some information on the need for shark conservation in 2008, they continue to present sharks as monster man-eaters, thus reinforcing the biggest obstacle to their protection.

Therefore, since:

~Discovery Communications uses endangered marine animals to provide horror shows for profit, facilitating their mass slaughter with almost no public sympathy, nor protest

~Discovery has so effectively convinced their millions of viewers that sharks deserve to be hated, that many people think that sharks should be hunted to extinction

~Discovery has created a wave of fear of the sea, in people who grew up watching Shark Week

~Discovery executives know exactly what they are doing, and call it 'shark pornography,' while they bring in millions of dollars

~Discovery excuses itself by claiming it is only giving the public what it wants, though the public's love of horror shows has nothing to do with their responsibility for having made sharks the subject of that horror

~Discovery is as responsible for the decline of sharks towards extinction as the market for shark fin soup

We call for an International boycott of all of Shark Week's programs until Discovery
Communications stops using sharks dishonestly for profit in horror shows, and starts presenting them as the important marine animals that they are, now in danger of extinction.

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