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Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’ Video Blasted By Emmy-Winning Wildlife Documentarian Over Captured African Elephant

For Immediate Release:
October 10, 2013

Contact:
Moira Colley 202-483-7382 

“How did Suzy, a member of a threatened species from Africa, find herself next to Katy Perry on a California set? She was violently captured from her free-roaming herd in Zimbabwe when she was 2 years old and shipped to the U.S., where she was most likely bound and beaten in order to make her perform without complaint.” Suzy—the elephant used in Perry’s music video for “Roar”—is the subject of “Katy Roars, Elephant Whimpers,” a blistering op-ed appearing in today’s New York Daily News, courtesy of Emmy Award–winning and Oscar-nominated wildlife documentarian Chris Palmer.  

In the op-ed, Palmer reveals the routine abuse and deprivation that elephants and other exotic animals face behind the scenes—and places the blame for this abuse on unwitting stars, directors, and producers who demand elephants for music videos, movies, photo shoots, and publicity stunts.   

“Only when stars, directors and producers stop forcing exotic animals onto soundstages will these sensitive and sophisticated animals get a reprieve,” Palmer writes. “Katy Perry may be one of the biggest pop stars in the world, but next to that sad elephant, she looks like a very small person.”

For more information, please visit PETA.org.  

Chris Palmer’s op-ed follows and is also available in the New York Daily News here.

Katy roars, elephant whimpers
By Professor Chris Palmer

“You hear my voice, you hear that sound, like thunder gonna shake your ground,” hollers Katy Perry in her new song “Roar.” Although the tune is a hit with Generation Selfie, one notable young lady is clearly not a fan: Suzy, Katy’s reluctant elephant costar in the song’s video.

Elephants don’t like loud noises, bright lights or hectic sets with dozens of people running around. As an Emmy-winning wildlife documentarian who has spent decades producing nature features for IMAX, Animal Planet and the Disney Channel, I am among many filmmakers who film animals only in their natural habitat. How did Suzy, a member of a threatened species from Africa, find herself next to Katy Perry on a deafening California set? She was violently captured from her free-roaming herd in Zimbabwe when she was 2 years old and shipped to the U.S., where she was most likely bound and beaten in order to make her perform without complaint. This video shows how it’s done in the industry.

It’s ironic that Katy’s song “Roar” is about female empowerment since elephants are matriarchal—the females stick together for life in the wild, for up to 70 years. Suzy, on the other hand, has spent 10 of the last 20 years deprived of the companionship of any other elephants. She is stored like a studio prop and trotted out at the whim of producers, directors and stars. The reason I’m singling out Katy is because this isn’t her first time making a mockery of these highly intelligent animals—earlier, she had made her grand entrance at a gossip blogger’s birthday party riding on the back of an elephant.

Katy shot back with a letter from the American Humane Association declaring that no animal had been harmed on the set. So PETA explained to her that the AHA doesn’t monitor cruel capture and training methods and that its rubber stamp in Hollywood has become a public travesty. Just last year, the AHA was on set during the making of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (in which 29 animals were killed) and the HBO series Luck (which was canceled after three horses died during production). The meaninglessness of the AHA’s seal of approval can routinely be seen in the news.

I hope Katy will find a few minutes to read this piece. I don’t imagine that she’s mean—just distracted. Only when stars, directors and producers stop forcing exotic animals onto soundstages will these sensitive and sophisticated animals get a reprieve. Katy Perry may be one of the biggest pop stars in the world, but next to that sad elephant, she looks like a very small person.

Chris Palmer is director of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking and a film professor at American University in Washington, D.C. His nature features and shorts have won two Emmys and an Oscar nomination. His experiences with wildlife are chronicled in his memoir, Shooting in the Wild.