Escape from Extinction review – eco advocacy bordering on pro-zoo propaganda | Movie
TIt’s a spurious documentary that has a noble cause: it is nominally the sixth mass extinction threatening Earth’s biodiversity. However, it shoots itself in the foot by turning into a controversy in favor of zoos and their role in directing species conservation. (It is produced by the American Humane Animal Welfare Charity.) It’s impossible to argue with many of the points he makes, wisely reported by Helen Mirren, and important fixes amidst the current questions about the existence of zoos. But they’re done in such a one-sided and moving way that Escape from Extinction borders on propaganda.
A first statistical blitzkrieg leaves no doubt about the extent of the current crisis: an eighth of the 8 million species on the planet is in danger of disappearing. But the protesters lined up outside the zoo’s doors are often misguided and uninformed, many people interviewed about the film’s conservation argue. Take the much-maligned SeaWorld: it provides invaluable cetacean research not possible in the wild, and releasing captive-bred orcas is usually not to the benefit of animals. Elsewhere, the film accumulates many examples where zoos are not only learning sites but refuges to repopulate species that would not have survived otherwise: the gray wolf, the black-footed ferret, the whooping crane, the kakapo.
Fair enough. But Escape from Extinction is so determined to force his case, it’s hard to trust. It does not commit to the conditions that “accredited zoos” must meet, nor does it enter into discussions with animal rights activists with legitimate concerns about the lives of animals in captivity (a word with which the film quibbles step by step). In a segment about sharks, he criticizes their evil portrayal in movies like Jaws and TV shows like Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, then uses the same sensational edit to dry up the zoo protesters (complete with cheerleaders). orchestral nonstop for any zoo success story). A possible mass extinction may well justify the zoo-arches argument, but it means tackling complex questions about man’s relationship with nature that this film doesn’t have time to answer. Already in the grip of this crisis, animals – and we – deserve better than this partial investigation.
Escape from Extinction is in theaters from September 17th.