one green planet
one green planet

Animals used in the entertainment industry have been admired through the years from the iconic “Lassie” to “101 Dalmatians.” We love animals, we love to see them in movies and on television, but do we really know if they are being treated humanely on sets? Should animals be used for our entertainment?

The American Humane Association (AHA) runs the “No Animals Were Harmed” certification program which is supposed to ensure that animals used on film sets are being treating humanely. Films that take part in this program receive the label “no animals were harmed in the making of this film” in the credits — a statement many caring viewers have trusted for years.

However, the AHA is now under fire due to a new breaking investigation, with some pretty damning evidence, by The Hollywood Reporter.

Among some of the shocking violations of animal treatment detailed in the full report are the following:

A Husky dog was punched repeatedly in its diaphragm on Disney’s 2006 Antarctic sledding movie Eight Below, starring Paul Walker, and a chipmunk was fatally squashed in Paramount’s 2006 … romantic comedy Failure to Launch. In 2003, the AHA chose not to publicly speak of the dozens of dead fish and squid that washed up on shore over four days during the filming of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Crewmembers had taken no precautions to protect marine life when they set off special-effects explosions in the ocean, according to the AHA rep on set.

How does this abuse take place under AHA’s watch, and why does the AHA continue to give films and shows with egregious track records their stamp of approval? According to the report, the AHA has awarded its “No Animals Were Harmed” credit “to films and TV shows on which animals were injured during production. It justifies this on the grounds that the animals weren’t intentionally harmed or the incidents occurred while cameras weren’t rolling.”

These loopholes are how an astounding 27 animals died during the production of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” from dehydration, exhaustion, and drowning in water-filled gullies. The film still received the AHA’s approval stating they had “monitored all of the significant animal action. No animals were harmed during such action.” This is true, in part. Since the deaths took place during a hiatus in filming, the AHA technically had no jurisdiction, although, arguably, it should really have looked after the animals from start to finish.

It appears as though the AHA has been failing to be a voice for animals on set, what’s more, according to Salon, “no films are required to have the AHA’s disclaimer, and because it’s a nonprofit, the AHA isn’t required to make its information publicly available the way federal monitors would.”

We may not ever be able to know if animals used for entertainment are being treated well, so what can we do? Animals in Film and TV provides these alternatives for filmmakers to consider as animal replacements which include computer generated imaging, animatronics, stock footage, filming existing events, filming animals in their natural habitats, and simply writing animals out of scripts. As a viewer, you can support also humane action like urging “Anchorman” to cut scenes from Seaworld in their film.

Update: The American Humane Association has published a statement responding to The Hollywood Reporter’s claims. Read the organization’s response here.

Image Source: Pablo Vazquez/Flickr