Warning: This article contains details of animal abuse that some readers may find distressing.
Michael Jackson died in 2009 under a cloud of allegations that he abused children at his Neverland ranch. The King of Pop hid his activities from the world at the sprawling 2,700-acre estate in rural California, which was raided by police in 2003. Two years later, the singer was found not guilty of all charges by a jury after a 14-week sexual abuse trial. However, dark tales of Neverland have persisted long after the singer’s death, including that animals were also abused on the site.
Jackson kept 50 species in a collection of more than 130 exotic pets in a zoo at his Neverland Ranch.
The musician’s menagerie included giraffes, elephants, tigers, llamas, parrots and a boa constrictor.
A recent ITV documentary, ‘Searching for Michael Jackson’s Zoo with Ross Kemp’, has looked into the zoo.
Presenter Ross Kemp looks at how the animals were treated, speaking to leading experts about Neverland.
Animal rights campaigner Carole Davis tells him how the conditions the creatures were in at the site were “no fairy tale”.
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In the programme, Ross asks the expert for her general assessment of the zoo at the Neverland Ranch.
She says: “Animals were incarcerated there and so, Neverland seems like a fairy tale kind of a place.
“But it was no fairy tale for the animals living there. No fairy tale at all.”
Throughout his decades-long musical career, Jackson carefully curated an image as an animal-lover.
The star made reference to his love of nature in ‘Earth Song’, and paraded about with Bubbles, his iconic pet chimpanzee.
“And that is that one can be a real fan of Michael Jackson’s fantastic music and also hold in one’s head the idea that Michael Jackson hated animals.”
Ross adds that in some of the footage, Jackson looks like he shows genuine affection for his exotic pets.
Carole replied: “It is wrong to own wild exotic pets.
“They don’t belong in cages. They don’t belong in captivity. He made it look like it was OK to do so. He was wrong.”
She added: “You could see where they had rubbed themselves up against the cages. You could see that there was no way out.
“You could see that it was dark, that it was dreary, that it was bleak. You could also see that it was the furthest thing from where these animals should be in either their natural habitat in the wild and if that’s not possible, in a sanctuary.”
‘Searching for Michael Jackson’s Zoo with Ross Kemp’ is available to stream on ITV.