Sir David Attenborough gets a mauling from academic….because he's 'ignoring' all the gay animals in his BBC nature documentariesHomosexuality in animal world 'pretty much everywhere'
Dr Brett Mills says documentary makers are ignoring issueAs a result, audience's view of what is natural is being skewed

Fiona Macrae


05:03 GMT, 9 February 2013



05:11 GMT, 9 February 2013

David Attenborough

David Attenborough is accused of not covering homosexuality in the animal kingdom

Gay rights campaigners were delighted when the Commons approved same-sex marriage this week.

But it appears there is another fight on the horizon – for equality in Sir David Attenborough’s nature documentaries.

An academic has criticised the BBC star for failing to cover homosexuality in the animal kingdom.

Dr Brett Mills, head of media studies at the University of East Anglia, said that while he doubted Sir David was deliberately ignoring the issues, homosexuality is ‘pretty much everywhere’ in the animal world.

He said that by ignoring or sidelining the issue, wildlife documentary makers are skewing the audience’s view of what is natural.

Dr Mills – who has previously criticised such documentaries for invading animals’ rights to privacy – said: ‘These programmes make a valuable contribution to environmental awareness and how people think about the world around them. They are highly regarded and educational but they should also be offering alternative interpretations of animal behaviour.

‘The central role in documentary stories of pairing, mating and raising offspring commonly rests on assumptions of heterosexuality within the animal kingdom.

‘This is despite a wealth of scientific evidence which demonstrates that many non-human species have complex and changeable forms of sexual activity, with heterosexuality only one of the many possible options.’

Dr Mills’s criticisms come after watching hours of Sir David’s documentaries, spanning two decades.

In one example from 2003’s The Life Of Mammals, two male chimps are shown embracing. The narrator describes it as an act of friendly affection – but Dr Mills says alternative explanations should also be given.

Sir David

Dr Brett Mills, head of media studies at the University of East Anglia,
said that while he doubted Sir David was deliberately ignoring the
issues, homosexuality is 'pretty much everywhere' in the animal world

In The Life Of Birds in 1998, viewers were treated to male sandpipers circling one another in an ‘aggressive’ manner. Again, Dr Mills suggests another interpretation should have been addressed by the programme.

The academic also complains that Sir David’s programmes place too much emphasis on traditional family values and monogamy while ignoring promiscuity and single parenting, which are also rife among many animals.

He highlighted footage of emperor penguins from 1993 that suggests ‘family is an essential unit for the success of the offspring’. Similarly, the description of blue manakins, South American birds which have multiple mates, as ‘neglectful of their parental duties’ feeds the idea that one type of family is better than others, it is claimed.

The researcher chose Sir David’s documentaries to illustrate his point because of the ‘perceived authority and reverence’ lent to them by the veteran broadcaster – but he stressed that other wildlife documentaries are just as guilty.

Dr Mills, who airs his arguments in the European Journal of Clinical Studies, said: ‘The research now suggests that [homosexual] behaviour can be found in pretty much every species to different extents.

‘Anywhere people have actually looked, it will be found.’

The BBC did not respond to requests for comment.

attenborough pg 15.jpg

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