Doc Martin star Martin Clunes, a noted animal lover, has been dropped by the charity Born Free after an ITV documentary featured him riding on an elephant and climbing onto the animal by grabbing onto her ears.
The Mirror says that Clunes had been a patron of the organization for years, which made it even more difficult for the charity to part ways with the actor, said chief officer Howard Jones.
“We can confirm that, with much regret, Martin Clunes is no longer a patron. Born Free has always been opposed to the exploitation of captive wild animals for entertainment and human interactions, including riding elephants,” Jones said.
Jones says that Born Free believes that using animals like elephants to make money for tourism is exploitative, and they don’t approve in any situation, so when Clunes rode on an elephant as part of his ITV show, My Travels and Other Animals, they had no choice but to sever their relationship, particularly after a huge outcry from their other supporters.
On the show, Clunes expresses concern that he is hurting the animal, and that he didn’t approve of riding on elephants, but Born Free says they had no choice, because ultimately, the actor rode on the elephant. ITV says this is unfair, and they don’t believe that anyone should think that Clunes supports any form of cruelty to animals.
— Digital Spy (@digitalspy) May 21, 2019
But according to The Inquisitr, even though Clunes expressed concern about the elephant’s welfare, Born Free had received a number of calls and emails. Will Travers, the president of Born Free, had initially said he would look into the matter, but that his organization had a zero-tolerance policy about using animals for financial gain.
“There is clear evidence that training, keeping and riding captive elephants causes distress and suffering. Even the most benign mahoot controls the elephant through a combination of reward and coercion, reinforced by the use, or threat of use, of the ankus or bullhook,” Travers said.
But ITV says that they believe the star of Doc Martin has been misrepresented by Born Free.
“Martin was immersed in the experience to allow him to show viewers an up close perspective on modern conditions and their impact on the elephants. Any suggestion that the program or Martin endorsed cruel treatment of elephants would be misrepresentative and deeply unfair.”
Clunes has still not spoken out personally about being fired from Born Free, and neither he, nor his representatives have issued a statement.