Recently a video surfaced on the set of the new film, A Dog’s Purpose, showing a trainer mishandling an obviously frightened German Shepherd over raging water. This disturbing footage has shone a new light on how animals are mistreated and possibly put in danger for entertainment.
As the video of an animal trainer forcefully pushing a scared dog on a movie set, the public became outraged and organizations like PETA encouraged boycotting the film completely. Whether or not the film should be seen or not is up to personal belief, but what people should be horrified over is the fact that this is one of the ‘milder’ cases of mistreatment of animals on the sets of movies.
As disturbing as the video from A Dog’s Purpose was, the truth is that Hollywood has exploited animals for decades.
The supposed guarantee given by the American Humane Association (AHA), “No animals were harmed in the making of this film”, is misleading. To get this approval, an AHA representative must be on set any time an animal is being used. Yet this does not ensure the safety of the animals trained off set or where they live during the production of the movie.
With such a vague discretion movies often get away with animal abuse and still make millions.
One truly upsetting example was the treatment of the tiger, King, used on the set of Life of Pi. During one scene, the handler lost control of King and the bengal tiger “damn near drowned,” as quoted by Gina Johnson, the AHA representative on set, in an email to a colleague. Johnson then went on to say how all this information was confidential and she had to downplay the incident for her boss.
King’s mistreatment did not end there because a video was released in December 2015 of his trainer, Michael Hackenberger, beating the young tiger with a whip. Hackenberger was then unknowingly recorded saying, “‘I like hitting [the tiger] in the face. And the paws … being on the rock, when you hit him, it’s like a vice.” However justice was never brought to King, and Life of Pi went on to win 14 awards and produce over 600 million dollars at box offices.
Another appalling example of the abuse that appears off the screen comes from the 27 deaths in the farm where animals were kept before and after shooting on the movie, The Hobbit.
According to the Huffington Post, the first animal to die was a miniature horse found with a broken back. Rainbow, the horse, ran off the bank and had to be put down for injuries. The farm where the animals were kept, was deemed unsuitable for horses by the wranglers working there, and three more horses died from similar accidents.
The next animals that passes were six goats and six sheep that had either fallen into sinkholes or contracted worms. Twelve chickens were also found death after being mauled by an unsupervised dog. Two other horses later received severe leg injuries due to fencing.
The workers at the farm blamed the production company, and had consistently vocalized their concerns for the safety of the area the animals were held, but were ignored.
The AHA is also very much to blame for the corruption of the animal treatment in media. Bob Ferber, founder of Animal Protection Unit, has been reported sharing his thoughts on the topic when investigating the deaths of two horses in the movie Flicka. “This is like a cop not just ignoring a crime but helping cover it up,” Ferber said. He said this in response to his feelings that AHA tries to conceal all cases of animal abuse. Ferber is not alone with this thinking. In both situations discussed earlier, an AHA representative was not the one to publicly speak out against these incidents. It seems clear the organization will go out of their way to protect the entertainment industry over the safety of the animals.
Unfortunately cases as extreme as the ones mentioned are not uncommon. What is uncommon, however, is for the public to be as outraged with it as they seem to be with the video from A Dog’s Purpose. With new light shed on this topic, moviegoers should acknowledge the exploitation of animals on and off the set and incite change in the industry.