The Implicit Anti-Human Bias of Wildlife Documentaries

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When I was a kid, my favorite magazine was unquestionably National Geographic. Whatever the cover or main topic was each month, every issue seemed to me an exploration of the strange and fantastic ‘Other’ outside of my experience.

Similarly, my favorite TV show growing up was Star Trek: The Next Generation. I can still mostly rattle off Captain Jean Luc Picard’s intro monologue from memory.

“Space… The final frontier…

 These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise.

 Its continuing mission:

 To explore strange new worlds…

 To seek out new life and new civilizations…

 To boldly go where no man has gone before!”

And every issue of National Geographic I could lay my hands on when I was a kid was like that.

A deep-sea submarine had taken pictures of bizarre, glowing, grotesquely-fanged creatures from the bottom of the ocean. That was a strange new world.

The latest archeological discovery in Peru or Turkey or China was yet another.

An amazingly preserved wooly mammoth uncovered in the ice and snow of the tundra was undergoing DNA analysis in a laboratory somewhere. And there was talk among scientists of bringing such creatures back. Talk about going where no man had gone before! Only this was real.

I identified with the line delivered by young George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life, among my favorite movies of all time.

“It just so happens I’ve been nominated for membership in the National Geographic Society. I’m going out exploring someday, just you watch. And I might even have a harem, and maybe even one or two wives.”

But whatever happened to that attitude and mentality in our popular consciousness? Where did that appetite for adventure and excitement go?

Of Predators and Prey

Fast-forward to the present, or more specifically yesterday.

It was a lovely Spring afternoon in the Garrett Mullet house. My wife had taken two of our sons – Solomon and John – along with our daughter Evelyn to do some grocery and Easter shopping at Walmart in Williston.

I was at home with the other four – Josiah, Eli, Daniel, and Enoch. After tidying up the house, and while folding laundry, I was playing Civilization VI on the computer with my eldest two sons and my cousin Micah. The sun was shining and the windows of the house were open. I decided to turn the TV on to a Netflix wildlife documentary.

At first, it was The Hunt – a BBC series about the plight of predators in the animal kingdom plying their trades to catch a bite to eat. Leopards, orca, wolves, polar bears, African wild dogs, and more each had their turns chasing down their preferred prey – or trying to, at least. One scene would show a failed attempt where the antelope escaped. The next would show a successful hunt where the humpback calf was gotten.

We also watched a few episodes of a series called Our Planet. This one went back and forth between scenes of wildlife scarcity and abundance. During the scenes of scarcity, mankind was unrelentingly blamed. Scenes of abundance, meanwhile, were described as either due to robust conservation efforts or else marginalized as exceptions and outliers, or pale shadows of even greater abundance supposedly common decades or centuries ago.

David Attenborough narrated both shows. Come to think of it, it seems more the rule than the exception that Attenborough narrates the wildlife documentaries on Netflix. He is very credible and wise-sounding, after all, what with that steady, raspy British cadence of a kindly, erudite grandfather.

The Left Ruins Everything

Here I will confess that I experience mixed emotions watching these shows.

The shots are undeniably beautiful. The animals and scenery on the screen are so crisp and stunning anymore that I catch myself staring, awestruck. The struggle of predator against prey, or of massive gatherings of mammals, birds, and fish making their way all over the world are so dramatic and alive.

However, I am reminded of a Prager University video I watched several weeks ago titled The Left Ruins Everything. In it, Prager goes item by item “from the Boy Scouts to literature, from the arts to universities” outlining how the Left systematically and pathologically takes all the joy and fun out of everything these days. To the Left, everything is offensive, oppressive, and unjust.

I would argue that wildlife documentaries are no exception.

Implicit in every production I have seen in recent years is a tone and narrative which is not hard to summarize as biased.

Animals are good. Human beings are bad. When animals hunt and fish and have babies, this is good. People, meanwhile, are overpopulating and overconsuming and polluting the world.

And there is another, subtler note. It is implied constantly, though never explicitly stated, that human beings are unjustly taking advantage of the planet and of animals. We are planet Earth’s oppressors.

And this is all the truer the more productive and prosperous and consumptive the people group. So guiltiest of all are Americans and those in the West, clearly.

I half expect a term to be invented, if it has not been already: ‘human privilege.’ Brace yourself for being told to check it.

How dare we roam about the Earth as if we own the place? Just who do we humans think we are anyway?

‘Fill The Earth and Subdue It’

When orcas kill a humpback whale, they do so in a very clever, coordinated way. But orcas are primitive and non-human so this is regarded with indifference.

Yet if you or I were to attempt to harvest a humpback calf the way I watched orcas doing on Netflix yesterday we would be derided as evil monsters. Our reputations would be ruined, and death threats would follow by groups and individuals who thought themselves righteously indignant.

But if mankind is merely an animal, it seems silly that it would be evil for us to hunt and fish, or even whale when other animals do so as a matter of course.

The most vocal conservationists take it for granted that mankind is just another kind of animal, and that our numbers are out of proportion. This is a consequence of secular Darwinian thinking on origins.

Just like conservationists curb or eliminate other invasive species, the success of humanity in fulfilling God’s first command to “be fruitful and multiply, fill the Earth and subdue it” is perceived as a transgression.

But, again, supposing humanity is just another kind of animal, why does it naturally follow that what is permissible for the animals is impermissible for man?

Orcas successfully hunting a baby humpback whale is considered natural. Why then, if mankind is another kind of animal, is it not just as natural for humans?

A conservationist might reply that commercial whaling is illegal by virtue of international agreements. To that I say that a legal reality does not necessarily equate to a moral and spiritual one. And that does not answer the more fundamental question in any event.

There are legal exemptions for indigenous peoples whose ways of life for centuries have involved whaling. Here again, however, the implicit bias seems to favor primitivity.


As a Christian, I believe there was no death, dying, or suffering in the beginning. God created everything in six days and rested on the seventh, and He saw that everything He had made was very good. It was sin that brought death into the equation.

After man sinned, animals thereafter began to hunt and eat one another. And now we have predators and prey.

After God sent the deluge to wipe out all life on Earth save Noah and his family and the animals on the Ark – because, it should be remembered, “the Earth had become corrupt and was filled with violence” – only then did God give every living thing to mankind to eat. Before that, He had given to humanity only the plants.

Some say at this juncture that this means we should all be vegetarians because there was a time before God allowed mankind to eat the animals. Of course, those persons are free to be vegetarians or even vegans.

I will point out, however, that we do live in the time after God gave us permission to eat the animals. And I along with most of the rest of the race think meat rather tasty.

Man is not just another animal. God made man in His image, according to Genesis. Moreover, mankind was commanded from the outset to “be fruitful and multiply, fill the Earth and subdue it.”

Conservation efforts are not all bad either. Please understand what I am saying and what I am not. Implicit in the dominion God commanded man to exercise is a responsibility to be good stewards.

However, the manner in which we argue for conservation must not get confused about the hierarchy of God, the angels, mankind, and thereafter the animals.

“The Earth is Yahweh’s and the fullness thereof.”

Follow Garrett Mullet:

Christian, husband to a darling wife, and father to seven children - I enjoy pipe-smoking, playing strategy games on my computer, listening to audio books, and writing. When I'm not asking you questions out loud, I'm endlessly asking myself silent questions in my head. I believe in God's grace, hard work, love, patience, contemplation, and courage.