Apr 24, 2010

What's Wrong WIth Fundraising Calendars Featuring Captive Animals?

This month's Audubon magazine (March/April 2010) contains a column by Ted Williams that should give pause to any group that buys stock wildlife photos for its calendars, newsletters, annual reports, and so forth. (And it's not just the environmental groups that do so -- on my refrigerator is a calendar for an organization that supports childrens' health, with a photo of a different bird every month).

His column, the regular installment of "Incite," describes a disturbing trend in which wildlife photographers, finding it increasingly tough or expensive to travel to faraway places to snap their shots, all too often pay a game farm for the privilege of photographing captive animals -- and then sell the photos without disclosing this fact, to media, nonprofits, and others.

What's the problem, one might ask, if a nice photo supports a good cause? Williams points out several problems. First, though a few game farms operate with integrity, many are just out to make a buck, and mistreat the animals. Second, such photos give people an artificial belief that animals in nature are all plump, happy, and blow dried (and in some cases, that African terrain looks oddly like Montana). Third, it's just plain dishonest, when there's a simple solution: disclose where the photo was taken.

Sounds to me like it's time to start asking questions before buying those photos.