The TV show MasterChef Ecuador has sparked outrage for featuring the cooking of wild animals, including the world’s largest rodent and an endangered shark.
The controversial episode prompted the Ministry of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition to point out that the hunting and consumption of these species is illegal and a threat to conservation.
In the episode, contestants prepared dishes with meat from deer, shark, crocodile, and a capybara, the largest rodent in the world.
The shark they prepared was a humpback smooth-hound (Mustelus whitneyi), known locally as a ‘tollo’, which is categorised as vulnerable on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The Ecuadorian ministry said that it condemns the “promotion and dissemination of graphic or audiovisual content that encourages the purchase and consumption of wild species”, despite being filmed in neighbouring country Colombia.
Even though the MasterChef Ecuador episode was “filmed outside the country, it exposed a situation that could lead to the illegal consumption of bushmeat”, according to the ministry.
Environmental officials urged citizens to respect and protect “the country’s extraordinary biodiversity” and called on the media to support the national environmental policy.
They said the episode’s content could “normalise the consumption of protected animals” and “contribute to the trafficking of wild animals and the destruction of ecosystems”.
Animal activists and several environmental organisations complained about the reality show, reportedly filmed in Colombia, pointing out that endangered species are protected by international treaties also signed by the neighbouring country.
The show’s judge Carolina Sanchez claimed the meat came “from a farm”.
Meanwhile, Colombian Environment Minister Carlos Eduardo Correa has called for an investigation, adding: “The trafficking and marketing of wildlife is a crime in Colombia.”
MasterChef Ecuador, which is in its third season, is recorded in Colombia and broadcast on the privately-owned Ecuadorian channel Teleamazonas.
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