A few hours after animal rights defenders stirred an uproar on social media, an Egyptian television network removed its latest episode in which it filmed a chase of a small fox in what looked like a desert area in Egypt.
The controversial episode was aired late on Wednesday on Sabaya El-Kheir programme, a show focused on social subjects, hosted by TV presenter Reham Said.
Said has finished in late September a one-year suspension penalty over an earlier outcry she had stirred by describing overweight people as “a burden.”
Users of social media were appalled by footage shared from the latest episode showing a group of hunters, alongside the show presenter, catching a small fox in a way they described as "merciless."
The third episode of the returning show, which premiered on Monday, showed the small fox pinned down and tied from its legs and mouth, looking helpless and in pain at the hunters.
Al-Nahar network, which includes the channel that broadcasts Said's show, apologised in an official statement on Thursday, saying it was aiming to shed light on animal hunting activity in Egypt to help export them.
The statement added that the episode was pulled from all streaming outlets and social media platforms.
"We support animal rights and their right to live free of cruelty and suffering," the network said, calling for adopting measures that protect animals against being terrorised.
Over the past few hours, a number of social media users slammed the show host, accusing her of delivering such content with the aim of gaining millions of views on social media platforms at the expense of a wild animal. They also launched hashtags against her, calling for the TV network to stop airing her show once again.
According to article 28 of the environment law, hunting, killing, and catching birds and wild animals are prohibited in Egypt. The law also bans transporting, importing and exporting or offering to sell such birds and animals or practicing activities that tend to destroy their natural habitats.
They also accused the show of filming an illegal wild animal hunt, in violation of environment laws, a claim the show presenter refuted in a live video on her Facebook account on Thursday.
Said stressed that the hunters in the episode have the necessary permits to hunt, noting that foxes are usually used for scientific research purposes before they are brought back to their natural habitat.
“I only covered a hunting trip in a sincere manner… I have nothing to do with the way foxes are hunted -- a practice I oppose,” the TV presenter said, adding ''I'm not responsible for the means hunters use to catch animals.
“Should I be blamed for uncovering something wrong,” she wondered.
She said she didn't intend to cause harm to any animal, herself raising animals at home. She added she hopes the episode sheds light on the need to change animal hunting methods.
Over the past few years, Said's show has stirred heated controversy, one of the latest of which was a 2019 episode in which she described overweight people as “a burden” and “an eyesore.”
Her remarks resulted in her suspension from work and she was prevented from appearing on any media outlet for one year.
In October 2015, a public campaign was launched to boycott her show after she accused a woman slapped by her harasser in a mall of dressing “indecently” and aired stolen private photos of the victim.
Said was prosecuted for defaming the victim and issued two prison sentences totalling one year and six months, but she successfully appealed both sentences.
Her show was also temporarily suspended in August 2017 by the Media Syndicate for "violating media norms" after she hosted a discussion with a married woman and her lover.