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'Zookeeper' Premiere Picketed By PETA, Critiqued By Film Critics

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The film 'Zookeeper' faced a controversial premiere. While celebrities such as Kevin James and Rosario Dawson celebrated their movie, animal rights activists picketed it.

Patch reports that on Wednesday, activists protested the premiere over animal abuse allegations. Tweet, the giraffe, collapsed and died after wrapping his 'Zookeeper' scenes. According to PETA, "Tweet spent the last few months of his life confined to a 20-foot-by-20-foot stall, which was barely large enough for the 18-foot-tall giraffe to lie down in. In their natural habitat, giraffes live in vast home ranges of up to 400 square miles." The claim has been refuted by the American Humane Association.

Beyond protestors, many film critics weren't fans of 'Zookeeper' either. As the Los Angeles Times writes, "More curious is how ineffectual the gabbing menagerie shtick is, as if a group of majestic beasts... are only interesting when hanging around tossing out one-liners. (A comment on captivity, perhaps?)."

Rosario Dawson discussed the animal stars of 'Zookeeper' with OnTheRedCarpet.com, saying, "They were all wild animals on set and we got to visit with the gorillas, which were actually at the Franklin Park Zoo, as well as the bears and most of these animals had to be completely separated because they couldn't be anywhere near each other because they're all predators and so it was really funny to watch the movie and see all of them sitting and chatting with each other and you're like, um, that's not possible."

Patch described the scene at the premiere:

Across the street from the Regency Village Theatre, about 20 PETA supporters held signs with slogans. Jennifer Miguel of Santa Monica wore a PETA T-shirt and carried a handbag with a "meat is murder" sticker.

"I've been a PETA supporter for 10 years," she said. "I'm here because I'm an animal rights supporter."

PETA advocates for alternatives to live animals in films, such as computer-generated imagery. Other supporters at the Zookeeper premiere held signs that featured a still from a video in which an elephant appears to receive an electric shock from a handler.

Earlier this year, reports surfaced that an elephant named Tai was abused by trainers. Video footage showed Tai and other elephants being beaten with bull hooks and receiving electric shocks, screaming out in pain. The animal was featured in the film "Water For Elephants," and is reportedly in "Zookeeper" as well. Tai's abuse outraged viewers and animal rights activists, prompting a lawsuit against the training team and a reward offered for reporting abusive trainers.

Regarding "Zookeeper," PETA writes: "Moviegoers may be surprised to learn that the presence of American Humane Association (AHA) representatives on a movie set is no guarantee that animals were not exploited, hurt, or even killed during production. AHA representatives only monitor what occurs during filming, not what happens during off-set training sessions, where abuse is most likely to occur... Please don't reward the producers of Zookeeper -- which, incidentally, is receiving scathing reviews -- for exploiting animals. Don't buy a ticket."

It's unclear if some people will choose to avoid the movie because of the critics claiming animal abuse, or simply because of the other critics claiming it's just a bad movie.

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Around the Web

Zookeeper (2011) - IMDb

Zookeeper – Official Site

Zookeeper - Rotten Tomatoes

Rosario Dawson opens up about her 'Zookeeper' animal bonding

Kevin James in “Zookeeper”

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