Cruelty and Risks Inherent in Using Live Elephants, Bears, and Big Cats, Says Group
For Immediate Release:
May 7, 2018
Moira Colley 202-483-7382
Norfolk, Va. – After two elephants, one of whom has been caught on video being violently abused, were used in the new episode of the HBO series Westworld on Sunday, PETA is calling on the network to stop using wild animals in future productions.
Animals used in film and TV are often kept in extreme and distressing confinement, deprived of everything that’s natural and important to them, and subjected to abusive training methods, including beatings and the use of electric prods and bullhooks, without which they would simply walk off the set. PETA’s experts have identified one of the elephants used in Westworld as Tai, who’s exhibited by the notorious supplier Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT). She can be seen crying out as she’s electrically shocked in this eyewitness video footage taken at HTWT’s training compound.
After a prominent South African filmmaker was killed last week in an on-set incident involving a giraffe, PETA Manager of Animals in Film and Television Lauren Thomasson wrote to Casey Bloys, HBO’s president of programming, saying, “Public opposition to the use of animals for entertainment is stronger than ever—evident from the closure of Ringling Bros. circus after 146 years of exploitation and the dozens of travel companies that have pulled elephant rides from their offerings…. Considering the realistic and cruelty-free CGI technology that exists today, all wild animals in HBO series should be computer-generated.”
HBO, which has also used a bear and an elephant in Silicon Valley, a tiger in Vice Principals, and a lion in The Leftovers, came under fire from PETA in 2012 after three horses died during the filming of the horse racing drama Luck, which led to the show’s cancellation.
PETA, whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment,” notes that there are many other humane and realistic options available, such as computer-generated imagery, which HBO itself used successfully to create a tiger for the same scene in which it used a live elephant. For more information, please visit PETA.org.
PETA’s letter to HBO follows.
Dear Mr. Bloys,
I’m writing to you today on behalf of PETA and our more than 6.5 million members and supporters worldwide with concerns over the use of live animals on Westworld—especially wild animals, such as the elephants who appeared in last night’s episode. In light of the egregious cruelty and human health risks as well as the public’s growing opposition to the use of animals for entertainment—and because reports say that there are still plans to use bears this season—we’re urging HBO to commit to not using any wild animals in future episodes or other series.
All elephants used for TV and film are trained through domination and painful techniques, including the use of sharp metal bullhooks and electric prods. Many animals develop abnormal behavior and become unhealthy, depressed, or aggressive because of the mistreatment that they experience. We’ve identified one of the elephants on the show as Tai, who’s owned and exhibited by the notorious outfit Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT). This eyewitness video footage shows trainers at HTWT abusing elephants, including Tai, during training. The cruel methods that these trainers use are standard practices in the elephant-training industry. Kari Johnson, co-owner of HTWT, acknowledged under oath that her company chains elephants for more than 12 hours a day. Of the four elephants born at HTWT’s facility, all but one died before reaching the age of 4.
Public opposition to the use of animals for entertainment is stronger than ever—evident from the closure of Ringling Bros. circus after 146 years of exploitation and the dozens of travel companies that have pulled elephant rides from their offerings—so it comes as no surprise that we’re receiving complaints from your viewers. And since we sent you information when elephants and bears were used in other series such as Silicon Valley, we’re stunned that HBO would allow this.
Captive wild animals also pose a serious threat to the safety of cast and crew. Just last week, director Carlos Carvalho was killed by a giraffe on the set of a TV show with wildlife experts present. There’s no way to predict the behavior of wild animals, and no amount of training can overcome their natural instincts. Dangerous interactions with captive elephants have resulted in dozens of human deaths or catastrophic injuries—including broken bones, crushed pelvises, collapsed and punctured lungs, degloving injuries, head wounds, and brain injuries.
Considering the realistic and cruelty-free CGI technology that exists today, all wild animals in HBO series should be computer-generated, just the way the tiger was so beautifully done in last night’s episode. May we please hear from you right away to confirm that any plans to use live bears or other wild animals will be canceled and that you will pledge to stop using and exploiting wild animals? Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Manager, Animals in Film & Television