How true is the disclaimer: “No animals were harmed in the making of this film"?
According to a press conference and letter released by PETA last week, a number of recent films may have placed animals in potentially dangerous situations, despite the role of the American Humane Association (AHA) to monitor animals on set.
Last Thursday, PETA held a news conference with former "The Price Is Right" host Bob Barker and "The Simpsons" co-creator Sam Simon, calling on the AHA to investigate over a dozen claims suggesting animal injuries occurred during recent productions due to a failure in AHA oversight. The AHA has responded denying PETA's claims.
The American Humane Association uses a set of guidelines, on-set monitoring and ratings to protect animal actors, and according to the organization, their Film & TV unit is the "only animal welfare organization with oversight sanctioned by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG)."
According to a letter from PETA to the AHA, the animal rights group has received reports concerning animals on sets, many of which "could have been avoided with adequate oversight by the AHA." Productions where animals were allegedly put at risk include: "The Killing Season," "Killing Lincoln," "Lone Ranger," "The Hobbit," "Boardwalk Empire," "Wrath of the Titans," "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," "Magic Mike," "Moonrise Kingdom," "Pirate of the Caribbean," "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," "The Immortals," "The Conspirator," "There Will Be Blood" and "Failure To Launch."
One situation allegedly occurred during production for "Lone Ranger." According to PETA, "The AHA rep who reviewed the script was concerned about many risky scenes involving animals. The rep's concerns were not backed by AHA management. One trainer was fired for refusing to cooperate with producers who wanted the scenes to be shot as planned." In one scene that reportedly involved horses swimming across the Colorado River, a "horse and rider were swept downriver. Fortunately, a production crew was in a pontoon boat downriver. Two men jumped in to try to grab the horse. Eventually, someone was able to throw a lasso around the horse's head and pull the horse to the shore."
Another allegation, during "Wrath of the Titans" production, claims that a horse died in transport during the film, yet the film still received an 'Outstanding' rating by the AHA.
AHA responded directly to the "Wrath of the Titans" claims, writing, "the fact is that the horse’s death occurred during pre-production - while the animal was being transported - not during production, nor was it caused by any production-related activity. (The horse died from colic, a common equine ailment. The vet in attendance did all he could to save the horse, but colic is deadly.) The animal action during the film was performed without incident, "and thus the film was given an 'Outstanding' rating."
Regarding other instances listed by PETA, AHA claims that their investigations found no wrongdoing or were properly rated, or that investigations were not conducted because "the events as alleged by PETA either did not happen at all or did not happen as PETA describes." The organization goes on to states that since 2010, AHA “No Animals Were Harmed®” representatives "successfully protected more than 235,275 animal actors."
PETA offered a list of recommendations for the AHA, including that in order for a production to receive an AHA rating, a representative should be present every time an animal is used, computer-generated imagery should be encouraged over the use of wild animals, representatives should report all incidents of cruelty to law enforcement, and the AHA disclaimer should include the statement: “Pre-production training and living conditions off-set were not monitored.”
Allegations of abuse have recently sparked debate over the use on animals on both production sets and circuses, leading some to argue that mistreatment of animals will continue until they are no longer used for human entertainment.