Morally damaged racoonArt-msk
Shocked after having discovered that the shoot featured a naked model playing with the animal, the zoo’s management sued Art-Msk. Source: Art-msk
‘What are you doing? Give the actress her bra back!’ an off-screen laughing voice is heard to say in a video shot on a Smartphone. On a white king-sized bed, Tomas the raccoon is pulling on the bra, determined to take it away from a naked young woman as she tries to wrest it back. This scene is part of a video shoot (in Russian) arranged by Art-Msk, a Moscow-based ad firm, in August 2016.
The raccoon was rented to the firm by the Animals Aren’t Toys petting zoo. Shocked after having discovered that the shoot featured a naked model playing with the animal, the zoo’s management sued Art-Msk.
According to Russian news site TJournal (in Russian), the zoo was told that the raccoon would be featured in an ad for a brand of blankets and towels. Eventually, the Art-Msk website published some photos (in Russian) from the shoot, depicting the model covering her breasts with the animal, with a caption reading: “The touching love story of a girl and a raccoon is coming soon to federal TV channels.”
The managers of Animals Aren’t Toys demanded the immediate removal of the photos from the website, but Art-Msk did not comply. In October 2016, the zoo launched legal proceedings, but the court failed to set a trial date. On March 14, 2017, the raccoon’s owners, determined to see the matter through, resumed legal action.
In their claim, the zoo’s attorneys refer to the Universal Declaration of Animal Welfare (despite the fact that this proposed agreement has not yet been adopted by the UN and as such carries no legal weight), which states that animals are sentient beings and their welfare is an issue worthy of respect. "The raccoon cannot represent itself," the plaintiff points out rather reasonably, adding that therefore it should be represented in court by the zoo’s management.
Their main complaint against Art-Msk is that "the defendant inflicted harm on the entire raccoon population," adding that "from now on, each person who watches this video or sees one of these photos will associate raccoons directly with the erotic arts," which will somehow "affect the public’s opinion of raccoons as a species." Curiously, the zoo is not seeking to recover financial damages, demanding only that the photos of Tomas the raccoon are removed from the ad firm’s website.
Alexander Kulagin, an expert with the Animals Protection Tribune, told RBTH the claim is the first attempt to put the matters of emotional distress inflicted on an animal before court in Russia’s legal history. Kulagin says the zoo has no hope of winning the legal battle. "No coherent animal rights system exists in Russia – or in the world, for that matter," he explains. "There is simply no way to prove that a video shoot with a naked woman is harmful to raccoons."
In their claim, the zoo’s attorneys refer to the Universal Declaration of Animal Welfar, which states that animals are sentient beings and their welfare is an issue worthy of respect. Source: Art-msk
While the petting zoo accuses the ad firm of creating a negative media image for raccoons, Art-Msk considers itself the injured party. "The video wasn’t erotic, it was designed to be shown on federal TV channels," Valery Bogatov, head of the firm’s video marketing department, told Life.ru. He claimed the finished video was never shown to the public because the client who ordered the commercial was unhappy with the raccoon controversy and refused to pay for the ad.
Bogatov claims the model suffered damage too – after a couple of takes the young, aggressive raccoon finally stole her bra and ate it. Bogatov says his company could counterclaim for the lost lingerie.
The zoo says after his life-changing encounter with the breasts of a human woman, Tomas the raccoon was visibly upset and displayed some unusual behavior: He became sad, spent all his time in his cage, and even attacked his raccoon lady friend Lisa. "What’s worse is that we began noticing him trying to reach for women’s breasts," the zoo’s head spokesperson Victor Kiryukhin told (in Russian) TJournal.
A couple of months later, though, Tomas returned to his old self. "He is quite all right now," Kiryukhin says. "He is very energetic and cheerful." Despite the raccoon moving on from the terrifying experience, the zoo is still livid with the ad agency. "It’s nothing short of bestiality! Associating animals with eroticism is highly immoral," Kiryukhin says indignantly.
The zoo says after his life-changing encounter with the breasts of a human woman, Tomas the raccoon was visibly upset and displayed some unusual behavior. Source: Art-msk
As Tomas was regaining his wits, and the zoo was preparing its legal claim against Art-Msk, another version emerged, suggesting that the conflict was nothing but a marketing stunt carefully designed to profit both parties. Russian TV channel 360 pointed out that the agency published an advert on its website in June 2016, seeking a raccoon from a petting zoo to arrange a "controversy-based promotional campaign”. "Do you have a raccoon? Do you want your zoo to be featured in the media? Do you like controversy? If yes, then contact us!" the ad said.
Nevertheless, both sides refute such claims. Art-Msk's Bogatov says the controversy was supposed to happen after publication of the video clip, rather than instead of it, and the whole zoo drama completely derailed the original plan. Kiryukhin insists the zoo was sincerely outraged and would have never cooperated with the agency had it known the true nature of the advert.