Human
fascination with wild and exotic animals unfortunately makes them popular
subjects for advertisers and the film and TV industry. Performing elephants and
“smiling” chimpanzees may grab our attention, but these animals are
not willing participants in the entertainment industry.

Wild animals
have extremely specialized needs. For example, elephants, big cats, and bears
are roaming animals who require a vast amount of space to explore and exercise.
When used for entertainment, these animals are subjected to intense confinement
and deprived of opportunities to express their natural behavior, which leads to
intense psychological—and often physical—distress. Bears and big cats become
neurotic and pace back and forth frantically in their cages, and elephants
develop painful and crippling foot conditions and arthritis.

The
chimpanzee “grin” so often seen in movies and on TV is actually a
grimace of fear, which they perform on command as a result of fear-based
training methods. In order to force young chimpanzees to perform, trainers physically
and psychologically abuse them, causing the animals to be constantly anxious
and fearful, always anticipating the trainer’s next move. When primatologist
Sarah Baeckler conducted a 14-month undercover investigation of prominent
Hollywood training facility Amazing Animal Actors, she saw “a lot of
physical violence. A lot of punching and kicking, and the use of the ‘ugly
stick,’ a sawed-off broom handle, to beat the chimps” and “all kinds
of physical abuse to keep them paying attention and in line with the
trainer.”(1)

Wild
animals can pose a danger to cast and crew, as in the case of Rocky, a
5-year-old grizzly bear who killed his trainer during the filming of a “promotional
video” at Randy Miller’s Predators in Action animal facility.(2) After
learning of this incident, Virginia McKenna, star of the 1966 film Born
Free
, remarked that “[t]he movie industry urgently needs to use its
technological and creative imagination to put an end to the use of live wild
animals in commercials and movies. Hollywood is a dream factory—this time the
dream has become a nightmare.”(3) During the 2007 filming of the American
Humane Association (AHA)–monitored film Speed Racer, a child was treated by a medic and left with a
bruised arm after a 2-year-old chimpanzee bit him without warning.(4)

The
inappropriate use of wild animals in entertainment and advertising can cause
public misconceptions about the species. A survey of patrons at the Lincoln
Park Zoo found that those who thought that chimpanzees were not endangered
assumed so because the animals are commonly seen on TV and in movies.(5) And
a study conducted at Duke University revealed that the inappropriate portrayal
of chimpanzees in media is likely to hinder conservation efforts and distort
the public’s perception of endangered animals.

That
familiar statement that scrolls up the screen at the end of a film is misleading
to audiences and filmmakers alike. The Denver-based group American Humane
Association (AHA), formed after a horse was deliberately thrown to his death
for the 1939 film Jesse James, is not adequately staffed to monitor
all productions effectively, nor does it have the authority to enforce its own
standards. It only has the power to grant any of six ratings, which range from
“Outstanding” to “Special Circumstances” to “Not
Monitored.”(10) AHA is funded by the Screen Actors Guild, which means it
isn’t a truly independent monitor. An AHA representative was on set in 2008
during the filming of Speed Racer when, “in an uncontrolled
impulse,” a trainer hit a chimpanzee in full view of the representative,
who did not press for cruelty charges. (11) 

AHA
bases its ratings only on the short period of time when animals are on the set—it
supervises animals only during filming, not when they are being trained for
films. In addition, the organization does not take into account animals’ living
conditions or trainers’ animal-related offenses or violations of the federal
Animal Welfare Act. For example, the aforementioned Predators in Action was
hired to provide the grizzly bear (who later mauled his trainer) for the movie Semi-Pro,
even though the company had been previously cited by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) for Animal Welfare Act violations that included failing to
maintain structures and shelters in good repair, keeping a lion in a tiny
shelter box in the snow, and failing to provide animals with drinking water.
AHA allowed Evan Almighty producers to use Birds Animals
Unlimited, an animal supplier warned repeatedly by the USDA for its failure to
comply with veterinary care, sheltering, and caging requirements. Furthermore,
no agency monitors separation of babies from their mothers, and AHA doesn’t
take into consideration the disposal of animals after they are no longer of use
to the exhibitor.

Only
human stars can be sure of securing a retirement after a career in movies.
Chimpanzees, for instance, can live to be 60 years old, but they stop being
useful to the entertainment industry when they are just a few years old, at
which point they become too strong and dangerous to be handled.(13) When trainers
can no longer manage great apes, they typically discard the animals at roadside
zoos or pseudo-sanctuaries. There, the animals may languish for decades in barren cages
or dank, depressing concrete cells. During an investigation of a pseudo-sanctuary, PETA found
a chimpanzee who reportedly had been used in the filming of the 2001 film The Planet of the Apes. The
chimpanzee, named Chubbs, was living in an underground cement pit that
resembled a dungeon and was strewn with rotten food and feces.

There
is no reason to use wild animals as actors when animation, blue screen,
computer-generated images, and other advanced technologies can produce
realistic substitutes. PETA advocates the use of these alternatives and
encourages entertainment-industry professionals to pledge not to use great apes
in their work. If you see a movie that features a wild animal, walk out and
tell the theater manager that you won’t support the mistreatment of animals and
that you’d like a refund. Write to your local newspaper’s film critic and
request that he or she mention in reviews whether or not a film features “performing”
wild animals. Educate critics about the training methods and cruel treatment
that wild animals endure off set as well as during the production of films and
television programs. If you see a television show or commercial that uses a wild
animal, call or write your local network affiliate representatives to alert
them to the objectionable content.

PETA
gives annual GOODY Awards to businesses whose advertisements depict animals in
a positive manner. We also give BADDY Awards to companies that advertise in
ways that disrespect animals. If you see a TV show, commercial, or film that
uses animals in an improper way or portrays animals disrespectfully, please contact PETA.

References 

1) Rachel Abramowitz, “‘Every Which Way But Abuse’ Should Be Motto,” Los Angeles Times 27 Aug. 2008.
2) Associated Press, “Bear Trainer Distraught After Deadly Attack,” 24 Apr. 2008.
 U.S. Federal News, “California Man Mauled to Death by Grizzly Bear Used in Hollywood Movies,” 23 Apr 2008.
3) Jeanette Walls, “PETA Not Monkeying Around With ‘Speed Racer,'” MSNBC.com, 11 Jul. 2007.
4) S.R. Ross et al., “Inappropriate Use and Portrayal of Chimpanzees,” Science 314 (2008): 1487.
5) David Carrigg, “Humane Group Probes Puppy Deaths,” The Vancouver Province 16 Mar. 2007.
6) CBSnews.com, “Horses Died on Set of Flicka,” 24 Oct. 2006.
7) Associated Press, “Second Horse Killed During ‘Flicka’ Filming,” 29 Apr. 2005.
8) James Bates and Ralph Frammolino, “Questions Raised About Group That Watches Out for Animals in Movies,” Los Angeles Times 9 Feb. 2001.
9) American Humane, Film and TV Unit, “Earning Our Disclaimer,” 2009.
10) American Humane, “Speed Racer,” Movie Reviews 2008.
11) Abramowitz.
12) Associated Press, “Going Ape Over Movie Monkeys,” 20 Mar. 2006.

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Article source: PETA Action Alerts

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