It's been nearly two weeks, and animal lovers are still fuming over the Feb. 15 episode of CBS's Survivor: The Australian Outback that featured contestant Michael Skupin butchering a wild pig and then triumphantly wiping its blood on his face. And no one is more worked up about the carnage than the man responsible for rescuing the world's most beloved piglet, Babe.
"I was appalled, outraged and disgusted," sighs James Cromwell, who received an Oscar nomination for his role as a gentle farmer who takes in an orphaned pig in the 1995 classic Babe. "I'm writing a letter expressing my objections and giving it to the Humane Society to use for whatever purposes they want."
Cromwell a vegetarian and a vocal animal rights advocate is particularly incensed by a CBS statement that defended the bloodshed as nothing more than an act of nature. "We firmly believe that our viewers recognize that hunting and fishing as a means of sustenance have been acceptable since the dawn of time," read the release.
"These people do not have to kill anything. They're not out there hunting; they're out there in a contest to win a million dollars," Cromwell fires back. "I think [Skupin] was perhaps insensitive, but he was put in a position where he knew his act would lead to his acceptance by not only his tribe, but by the network because it gave them the drama that they're looking for. They're out there trying to create drama.
"The assumption cannot be made that since there is hunting and fishing, that the destruction of any animal is therefore justified under any circumstances," he continues. "That to me is false and dangerous thinking, and that's what is implied in this program."
Cromwell even alleges that producers helped orchestrate the execution which was only partially shown to viewers. "I believe from what I saw that the hunt was canned," he suggests. "I cannot believe that a wild pig was caught by any human being that way. I think an aboriginal could do it, but I don't think any [lay] person could run after and catch a wild pig."
Government animal-protection authorities in Queensland, Australia, currently are investigating the incident with the help of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). CBS, however, says charges that the pig was set up are "completely inaccurate."
Despite his role in Babe (and its 1998 sequel, Babe: Pig in the City), Cromwell insists that he harbors no special sensitivity toward swine, and would have been angered "were it any animal. It wouldn't have mattered to me what it was. I think the needless slaughter of any animal is wrong."