Thursday, November 28, 2013

Animals Were Harmed During Filming of The Hobbit, Life of Pi and Others

For decades film-goers have been comforted by the American Film Association’s friendly shield at the end of movies. It’s meant to reassure us that, no matter what horrors we’ve witnessed on screen, innocent animals weren’t harmed for our entertainment.

It turns out, though, that those reassurance’s might be as fake as a Hollywood ending. An explosive feature in The Hollywood Reporter earlier this week pointed out that, all too often, the assurances that American Humane Association have been giving just aren’t true. The piece leads with two horrid incidents on recent blockbuster productions: the near-drowning of the tiger during filming of Life of Pi in 2011 and on the 2012 production of The Hobbit, a reported 27 animals perished during the creation of the film, “including sheep and goats that died from dehydration and exhaustion or from drowning in water-filled gullies, during a hiatus in filming at an unmonitored New Zealand farm where they were being housed and trained.”
A THR investigation has found that, unbeknownst to the public, these incidents on Hollywood’s most prominent productions are but two of the troubling cases of animal injury and death that directly call into question the 136-year-old Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit’s assertion that “No Animals Were Harmed” on productions it monitors. Alarmingly, it turns out that audiences reassured by the organization’s famous disclaimer should not necessarily assume it is true. In fact, the AHA has awarded its “No Animals Were Harmed” credit to films and TV shows on which animals were injured during production. It justifies this on the grounds that the animals weren’t intentionally harmed or the incidents occurred while cameras weren’t rolling.
The stories are shockingly -- and unacceptably -- numerous.
The full scope of animal injuries and deaths in entertainment productions cannot be known. But in multiple cases examined by THR, the AHA has not lived up to its professed role as stalwart defenders of animals — who, unlike their human counterparts, didn’t themselves sign up for such work. While the four horse deaths on HBO’s Luck made headlines last year, there are many extraordinary incidents that never bubble up to make news.
A Husky dog was punched repeatedly in its diaphragm on Disney’s 2006 Antarctic sledding movie Eight Below, starring Paul Walker, and a chipmunk was fatally squashed in Paramount’s 2006 Matthew McConaughey-Sarah Jessica Parker romantic comedy Failure to Launch. In 2003, the AHA chose not to publicly speak of the dozens of dead fish and squid that washed up on shore over four days during the filming of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Crewmembers had taken no precautions to protect marine life when they set off special-effects explosions in the ocean, according to the AHA rep on set.
And the list goes on: An elderly giraffe died on Sony’s 2011 Zookeeper set and dogs suffering from bloat and cancer died during the production of New Regency’s Marmaduke and The Weinstein Co.’s Our Idiot Brother, respectively (an AHA spokesman confirms the dogs had bloat and says the cancer “was not work-related”). In March, a 5-foot-long shark died after being placed in a small inflatable pool during a Kmart commercial shoot in Van Nuys.
All of these productions had AHA monitors on set.
I have a dear friend who, for years, has insisted on not watching films that included animals, saying she never felt confident that no animals were, indeed, harmed in the creation of the movie. While it’s distressing that she was right, her “no animals” stance would seem to have been the right one. At least for the time being, because until Hollywood sorts out how they can truly assure us that “No Animals Were Harmed” in the making of films, I suggest we not pay to see films featuring animals. Ever.

This is an important issue and an in-depth and well done piece. You can see the whole of it here.


Editor’s note: It’s true that, aside from the mention of a few movies based on books, the connection in this piece to January Magazine’s mandated subject matter is tenuous, at best. Even so, we feel the need to do what we can to move word of this as far as possible. Animal cruelty is not okay, no matter what form it takes. Tell your friends.

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Kelly Walsh said...

I am so very disappointed to read this. It feels like a breach of trust. What can be done? Is there anything we can do to help?

Friday, November 29, 2013 at 12:52:00 PM PST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So animals got hurt. What's the big deal? Even people get hurt sometimes making movies. Even killed.

Friday, November 29, 2013 at 1:52:00 PM PST  
Anonymous Erin said...

But the people had the option of saying no. And if a human is hurt or hungry or thirsty, they can speak up. Animals don't have those options. The people in charge of making the movies are responsible for the well being of the creatures under their care

Friday, November 29, 2013 at 7:28:00 PM PST  
Blogger Trish Saunders said...

I feel duped. I feel angry. I am going to stop viewing films that have animals in a prominent role. Which means I won't be seeing any westerns or kids' movies anytime soon. By the way, I am very dismayed at Anonymous's comment about "what's the big deal?" This is a big deal. Very. Animals are exploited and even killed for profit, must they be killed for art, as well?

Saturday, November 30, 2013 at 3:39:00 PM PST  
Anonymous Dan said...

I don't think it can possibly be counted as animal cruelty if an animal has a pre-existing condition (like the mention of cancer) and they happen to die while the movie is in production. Nor if the animal is harmed accidentally despite all efforts to protect its welfare. Accidents aren't cruel, they just happen.

This is entirely different than genuine negligence (like what *may* have happened with the sheep on the Hobbit) or intentionally hurting an animal for the purposes of the film (like a horse during an medieval battle - something very carefully avoided in movies like Braveheart with the use of animatronic horses).

Sunday, December 1, 2013 at 8:09:00 AM PST  

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