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Interview with 'The Elephant In The Living Room' Director About Exotic Animals As Pets

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At the 2011 Genesis Awards we scored an exclusive interview with Michael Webber, whose film The Elephant in the Living Room was nominated (and won!) for the Best Documentary category.

The film explores the debate between whether or not exotic animals should be kept as house pets, and while it has already been screened in select cities, it’s slated for a wider release in April. At Ecorazzi we believe that exotic animals belong in the wild and not in someone’s backyard, which is perhaps why this film is so important.

“There are states in the United States where you’re required to get a license to own a poodle, but in those same states you can take a tiger and bring it into your home, or a lion, or a chimpanzee, and there’s absolutely no regulation, there’s no licensing requirement,” Webber explained. “I can stick an elephant in my backyard and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.”

In the film, Webber follows police officer and animal advocate Tim Harrison, who has spent the last 30 years rescuing animals and responding to calls about exotic pets. But Harrison is juxtaposed next to Terry Brumfield, the owner of two full-grown male African lions. “The movie doesn’t really take a side,” Webber said about the debate. “As a filmmaker, I wanted to explore both sides.”

But after the experience of visiting homes with exotic pets, Webber did find a side to position himself with. “When I first started off I was really fascinated by this, I actually was interested in seeing these animals,” the Genesis Award winner stated. “But after a period of time I got tired of seeing a tiger in a cage, or a python that’s just wrapped up into a small cage, or chimpanzees that were trained to be a member of the family… and it just kind of became sad after a while.”

Webber then went on to say, “My take away from it was that you know people generally, when they get into this, don’t have ill intentions. And most people who don’t get into this who are like, ‘Hey, I think it’s okay,’ they just don’t really realize what’s really happening. And when you see the film, and when you experience it the way that I did, you sort of walk away saying, ‘You know what, I don’t want to see animals in captivity any more.’”

Neither do we! So, if you know someone who’s on the fence about this issue, or may not have an opinion, then take them to see The Elephant in the Living Room to help them decide!

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