- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 25, 2003

Reality TV has its detractors. Manipulative and cheap, they say. Appeals to the lowest common denominator. Others complain it isn't even real. Add a new offense to the list: cruelty to animals.

The worry isn't about the various insects occasionally ingested on "Survivor."

And, no, Ozzy Osbourne has not decapitated any doves lately. Not on camera.

The culprit is NBC's "Fear Factor."

The victims? Rats.

Yes, rats the icky, cringe-inducing rodents that creep out most civilized human beings. They're just perfect for "Fear Factor," the reality show that tests contestants' will to endure fear, loathing and pain in the hope of winning a cool $50,000.

The Rat Fan Club, based in Chico, Calif., says "Fear Factor" treats rats cruelly and unusually. They think that's a bad thing, if you're wondering.

Founded in 1992, the club is asking its members to write letters urging "Fear Factor" sponsors to request that the show stop using rats in its stunts.

"During past episodes, rats have been picked up by their tails and dropped into glass aquariums, dumped into a box with a contestant and, in the latest show, dead rats were picked up in contestants' teeth and spit into a trash can," according to a Rat Fan Club press release.

"We are conscious that we are fighting a difficult battle here," club founder Debbie Ducommun concedes in the statement.

The organization claims, however, that rodents are becoming increasingly popular pets and that roughly "500,000 households in America own pet rats or mice."

"Imagine turning on the TV and seeing people running around with dead puppies in their mouths; it has the same impact on those of us who love rats," the club statement says.

No spokesperson for the cat fan club was available for comment at press time.


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