It’s the comforting, post-credits pledge that lets animal lovers enjoy their favourite movies without worrying that anyone really killed Kevin Costner’s horse or Tom Hanks’s dog.
But now it seems the slogan “no animals were harmed” is not always to be believed after the publication of a report claiming animal cruelty is still rife in Hollywood.
A number of animals were injured or killed during the production of some of last year’s biggest blockbusters, including Life of Pi and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, while the HBO horse-racing drama Luck was cancelled after four horses died during filming.
The report by The Hollywood Reporter accuses the American Humane Association (AHA) – the issuer of the familiar “no animals were harmed” credit – of not only failing to protect animals on set, but also of covering up those lapses. The real-life Bengal tiger that played the circus animal “Richard Parker” in the director Ang Lee’s acclaimed Life of Pi was reported to have almost “drowned” during a sequence that was shot in a water tank in Taiwan; the report claims the animal was snagged with a catch rope and dragged to the side of the tank.
The Oscar-winning film was awarded the “no animals were harmed” stamp, despite an AHA official having witnessed the incident.
Gina Johnson, a representative for the AHA, described the tiger’s mistreatment in an email to a colleague in 2011.
“This one take with him just went really bad and he got lost trying to swim to the side. Damn near drowned,” she wrote. “I think this goes without saying but don’t mention anything to anyone! Especially the office. Have downplayed the fuck out of it.”
The report also claims the AHA neglected to investigate animal cruelty that took place on a New Zealand farm during the filming of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 2011, when 27 animals – including sheep and goats – reportedly perished from dehydration, exhaustion or drowning.
An animal trainer working on the film informed an AHA official of the fatalities in 2012, but was told the lack of physical evidence would make it hard to investigate the claim further. When the trainer replied that he had buried the animals himself and knew of their location, the AHA representative told him that because the deaths had taken place off-set, it could not officiate.
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