Green Room

Were animals harmed in the making of this movie?

posted at 12:08 pm on November 25, 2013 by

If you go by the screen credits on almost every Hollywood film released to theaters, you’d assume the answer was no.  According to The Hollywood Reporter, though, the American Humane Association that awards that status has taken a remarkably nuanced approach to that designation:

As a representative of the American Humane Association — the grantor of the familiar “No Animals Were Harmed” trademark accreditation seen at the end of film and TV credits — it was Johnson’s job to monitor the welfare of the animals used in the production filmed in Taiwan. What’s more, Johnson had a secret: She was intimately involved with a high-ranking production exec on Pi. (AHA’s management subsequently became aware of both the relationship and her email about the tiger incident, which others involved with the production have described in far less dire terms.) Still, Pi, which went on to earn four Oscars and $609 million in global box office, was awarded the “No Animals Were Harmed” credit.

A year later, during the filming of another blockbuster, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, 27 animals reportedly perished, including sheep and goats that died from dehydration and exhaustion or from drowning in water-filled gullies, during a hiatus in filming at an unmonitored New Zealand farm where they were being housed and trained. A trainer, John Smythe, tells THR that AHA’s management, which assigned a representative to the production, resisted investigating when he brought the issue to its attention in August 2012. First, according to an email Smythe shared with THR, an AHA official told him the lack of physical evidence would make it difficult to investigate. When he replied that he had buried the animals himself and knew their location, the official then told him that because the deaths had taken place during the hiatus, the AHA had no jurisdiction. The AHA eventually bestowed a carefully worded credit that noted it “monitored all of the significant animal action. No animals were harmed during such action.”

THR investigation has found that, unbeknownst to the public, these incidents on Hollywood’s most prominent productions are but two of the troubling cases of animal injury and death that directly call into question the 136-year-old Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit’s assertion that “No Animals Were Harmed” on productions it monitors. Alarmingly, it turns out that audiences reassured by the organization’s famous disclaimer should not necessarily assume it is true. In fact, 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.

The full scope of animal injuries and deaths in entertainment productions cannot be known. But in multiple cases examined by THR, the AHA has not lived up to its professed role as stalwart defenders of animals — who, unlike their human counterparts, didn’t themselves sign up for such work. While the four horse deaths on HBO’s Luck made headlines last year, there are many extraordinary incidents that never bubble up to make news.

This is what happens when a voluntary industry regulator gets too close to the industry itself.  This isn’t a good case for government intervention, though, as (a) it wouldn’t work anyway, (b) would cost taxpayers rather than the voluntarily self-selecting population of theater-goers, and (c) would create even more confusion than what presently exists.  If the AHA and the film industry want to get serious, they would farm this out to a really unaffiliated group, perhaps like Underwriters Laboratories or something similar.

One would think that the rise of CGI would alleviate the need for this kind of animal use anyway. Perhaps stories like this will provide further incentives for that outcome.

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hurts my heart dearly….

cruel folks out there…

cmsinaz on November 25, 2013 at 12:10 PM

This is what happens when a voluntary industry regulator gets too close to the industry itself.

It happens when any regulator gets too close. If it were a government regulator, however, the level of corruption would be much worse.

Flange on November 25, 2013 at 12:15 PM

Eh. They’re animals. I think we should avoid unnecessary cruelty to them, but I’m not all too concerned about what happened to them during the making of a particular movie.

I’m far more concerned about the harm being done to my fellow humans via the deluge of liberal propaganda contained in these movies.

Shump on November 25, 2013 at 12:17 PM

Flange on November 25, 2013 at 12:15 PM

Great point.

Ed Morrissey on November 25, 2013 at 12:24 PM

Considering how Hollyweird grinds up and spits out humans abuse of other animals should not surprise.

viking01 on November 25, 2013 at 12:47 PM

One would think that the rise of CGI would alleviate the need for this kind of animal use anyway. Perhaps stories like this will provide further incentives for that outcome.

I don’t know, maybe it’s gotten better, but I still feel like they haven’t quite gotten past uncanny valley with CGI.

RINO in Name Only on November 25, 2013 at 12:54 PM

By the way, what’s up with the headlines threads? A bunch of them don’t seem to want to load – happening to anyone else?

RINO in Name Only on November 25, 2013 at 12:56 PM

Great point.

Ed Morrissey on November 25, 2013 at 12:24 PM

Thanks. Do I win anything?

Flange on November 25, 2013 at 1:00 PM

RINO in Name Only on November 25, 2013 at 12:56 PM

We’re working on the glitch now. I believe we have given a $400 million no-bid contract to OFA to get it straightened out. When Healthcare.gov starts working, they’ll get right on it.

Ed Morrissey on November 25, 2013 at 1:02 PM

Thanks. Do I win anything?

Flange on November 25, 2013 at 1:00 PM

If you like your comment, you can keep your comment. ;-)

Ed Morrissey on November 25, 2013 at 1:03 PM

First of all, does anyone actually believe any of this crap? While I don’t know if any animals got hurt, I think I heard the president say, “if you like your animals, you can keep your animals, period.”

el hombre on November 25, 2013 at 1:07 PM

For the most part, the injuries seem to be accidental or minor. One that they listed on another story was fish killed during underwater explosions for the Pirates movies and a squirrel killed during another movie.

Now, if they are pushing the animals too far, or purposely taking risks cause “eh, it’s just an animal” that should be looked into. But I mean, HUMAN stunt doubles get hurt/killed as well and that hasn’t stopped us from using real people.

nextgen_repub on November 25, 2013 at 1:24 PM

the American Humane Association that awards that status has taken a remarkably nuanced approach to that designation:

This confirms my suspicion that Mongo really did knock out the horse.

“No Animals Were Harmed”

Should be rewritten to say “Only Certain Animals Were Harmed”.

rukiddingme on November 25, 2013 at 1:25 PM

“No Animals Were Harmed, although some animals were less harmed than others”

Flange on November 25, 2013 at 1:27 PM

In an industry that fully supports Roman Polanski, it’s amazing there haven’t been more animal injuries. They’re not very considerate of women and children, after all.

juliesa on November 25, 2013 at 1:37 PM

Eh. They’re animals. I think we should avoid unnecessary cruelty to them, but I’m not all too concerned about what happened to them during the making of a particular movie.

I’m far more concerned about the harm being done to my fellow humans via the deluge of liberal propaganda contained in these movies.

Shump on November 25, 2013 at 12:17 PM

Yup.

Why did they bury the dead animals?
Sheep & goats taste pretty good.

itsnotaboutme on November 25, 2013 at 1:52 PM

Funny, I never see that credit at the end of a Ted Nugent bow hunting flick?

dentalque on November 25, 2013 at 1:53 PM

Didn’t the last episode of Green Acres have a barbaque starting Arnold Ziffel?

dentalque on November 25, 2013 at 1:57 PM

Why did they bury the dead animals?
Sheep & goats taste pretty good.

itsnotaboutme on November 25, 2013 at 1:52 PM

It’s better than having to endure another PETA protest with nekkid gurlz.

antipc on November 25, 2013 at 2:02 PM

Eh. They’re animals. I think we should avoid unnecessary cruelty to them, but I’m not all too concerned about what happened to them during the making of a particular movie.

I’m far more concerned about the harm being done to my fellow humans via the deluge of liberal propaganda contained in these movies.

Shump on November 25, 2013 at 12:17 PM

I don’t understand this attitude at all. These animals were purposely put into life threatening conditions, something they certainly didn’t volunteer for, and you don’t care because it was for a movie?

changer1701 on November 25, 2013 at 2:14 PM

Apparently the AHA went to the Jackson-Sharpton School of Shakedowns. Can you imagine the unemployment rate in this country if all the people involved in some form of lobbying were suddenly put out to pasture?

BKeyser on November 25, 2013 at 2:45 PM

All animals were unharmed, but some animals were more unharmed than others.

/ministry truth

mankai on November 25, 2013 at 2:47 PM

Shump on November 25, 2013 at 12:17 PM

I tend to agree. We’ve raised the status of animals in this culture to that of being equal to or greater than humans.

We murder millions of innocent babies a year, but this relatively minor concern will get a lot of play. I expect my Facebook feed will be inundated with this new “crisis.”

mankai on November 25, 2013 at 2:51 PM

These animals were purposely put into life threatening conditions, something they certainly didn’t volunteer for, and you don’t care because it was for a movie?

changer1701 on November 25, 2013 at 2:14 PM

I’m unaware of animals volunteering for anything, one way or the other.

Working animals presumably face the same risks that the working humans do. I imagine people want to know that the animals weren’t harmed intentionally, or due to carelessness or neglect. Other than that, the idea that it’s an error-free world is just silly.

Not that we shouldn’t do away with the AHA.

TexasDan on November 25, 2013 at 2:57 PM

We’ve raised the status of animals in this culture to that of being equal to or greater than humans.

We murder millions of innocent babies a year, but this relatively minor concern will get a lot of play.

mankai on November 25, 2013 at 2:51 PM

Dennis Prager once said that liberals like to minimize or obliterate the important distinctions between human & animal, between God & human, between male & female, as well as between good & evil.

itsnotaboutme on November 25, 2013 at 2:58 PM

I don’t understand this attitude at all. These animals were purposely put into life threatening conditions, something they certainly didn’t volunteer for, and you don’t care because it was for a movie?

changer1701 on November 25, 2013 at 2:14 PM

I apologize if my statement was clumsily worded. I didn’t mean that I didn’t care specifically because it was for a movie. I meant that, while I certainly would never want to see someone inflict pain and suffering on an animal unnecessarily, the deaths of animals, in general, does not particularly concern me one way or another, whether that death is caused purposely due to their being used for food or accidentally as they are used in the production of a movie. They are animals, and I do not elevate them to a human level of importance.

Perhaps my fellow commenters summed up my feelings best:

I tend to agree. We’ve raised the status of animals in this culture to that of being equal to or greater than humans.

We murder millions of innocent babies a year, but this relatively minor concern will get a lot of play. I expect my Facebook feed will be inundated with this new “crisis.”

mankai on November 25, 2013 at 2:51 PM

I’m unaware of animals volunteering for anything, one way or the other.

Working animals presumably face the same risks that the working humans do. I imagine people want to know that the animals weren’t harmed intentionally, or due to carelessness or neglect. Other than that, the idea that it’s an error-free world is just silly.

Not that we shouldn’t do away with the AHA.

TexasDan on November 25, 2013 at 2:57 PM

Dennis Prager once said that liberals like to minimize or obliterate the important distinctions between human & animal, between God & human, between male & female, as well as between good & evil.

itsnotaboutme on November 25, 2013 at 2:58 PM

Shump on November 25, 2013 at 3:13 PM

For the most part, the injuries seem to be accidental or minor. One that they listed on another story was fish killed during underwater explosions for the Pirates movies and a squirrel killed during another movie.

Now, if they are pushing the animals too far, or purposely taking risks cause “eh, it’s just an animal” that should be looked into. But I mean, HUMAN stunt doubles get hurt/killed as well and that hasn’t stopped us from using real people.

nextgen_repub on November 25, 2013 at 1:24 PM

The animals didn’t make the conscious choice.

kim roy on November 25, 2013 at 3:42 PM

apologize if my statement was clumsily worded. I didn’t mean that I didn’t care specifically because it was for a movie. I meant that, while I certainly would never want to see someone inflict pain and suffering on an animal unnecessarily, the deaths of animals, in general, does not particularly concern me one way or another, whether that death is caused purposely due to their being used for food or accidentally as they are used in the production of a movie. They are animals, and I do not elevate them to a human level of importance.

Shump on November 25, 2013 at 3:13 PM

You’re comment was “eh, they’re animals”.

Just because they’re not people doesn’t mean that they should be relegated to second class status and abuse/exploitation for “entertainment”, which I put in scare quotes because most of the time it certainly isn’t worthy of sacrificing the life of anything and by any definition “unnecessary”.

I find seeing how people treat animals is an excellent barometer for how they’d treat people. I’ve rarely been directed in the wrong direction. I’m glad I don’t know you.

kim roy on November 25, 2013 at 3:49 PM

On the good side, these animals are still eligible to vote in Chicago.

rbj on November 25, 2013 at 3:53 PM

Some animals are more equal than others.

steebo77 on November 25, 2013 at 3:56 PM

Were any animals harmed when Rahm Emmanuel placed all of those horse heads in the beds of his political enemies?

steebo77 on November 25, 2013 at 3:57 PM

I think the point here for liberal Hollywood and their pet causes — of which animal rights is in the Top 10 — is that as with their concerns about people, it’s always more in the abstract than it is in reality.

Just as they burn tons of carbon with their private jets while hectoring others about the environment, or talk about how everyone has to pony up extra taxes in the name of fairness while using accountants to send their earnings to offshore accounts, Hollywood’s liberal rail against everything from rodeos to hunting to just eating an animal in order to show their higher morality. But in reality when push comes to shove, they do what they want to do, and if any animals are harmed in the making of this movie, they just make sure no one ever finds out.

jon1979 on November 25, 2013 at 4:07 PM

Were any animals harmed when Rahm Emmanuel placed all of those horse heads in the beds of his political enemies?

steebo77 on November 25, 2013 at 3:57 PM

Errmm… no. I reference from the article above.

It justifies this on the grounds that the animals weren’t intentionally harmed or the incidents occurred while cameras weren’t rolling.

While the animals may have been intentionally harmed, please note the word “or” in the disclaimer above.

Turtle317 on November 25, 2013 at 4:14 PM

The animals didn’t make the conscious choice.

kim roy on November 25, 2013 at 3:42 PM

Animals don’t make a choice in 90% of their interactions with humans. As I said, as long as the movie team didn’t torture, make a direct decision knowing it would kill the animals then I don’t see this as anything more than an unfortunate accident with many of the animals.

nextgen_repub on November 25, 2013 at 4:23 PM

I’m unaware of animals volunteering for anything, one way or the other.

Working animals presumably face the same risks that the working humans do. I imagine people want to know that the animals weren’t harmed intentionally, or due to carelessness or neglect. Other than that, the idea that it’s an error-free world is just silly.

Not that we shouldn’t do away with the AHA.

TexasDan on November 25, 2013 at 2:57 PM

Of course they don’t make a conscious choice, but the suggestion seems to be that because they’re “working”, well, sh!t happens. And I didn’t say it was an error-free world, just that I object to the idea that because they’re animals, their neglect/abuse/etc at the hands of humans should be minimized, or that we shouldn’t care as much. I think I can manage to be concerned about that, as well as the unborn as someone else mentioned, without elevating the former over the latter, or otherwise equating an animal with a person.

changer1701 on November 25, 2013 at 4:47 PM

Now, if they are pushing the animals too far, or purposely taking risks cause “eh, it’s just an animal” that should be looked into. But I mean, HUMAN stunt doubles get hurt/killed as well and that hasn’t stopped us from using real people.

nextgen_repub on November 25, 2013 at 1:24 PM

True, but stunt doubles know the danger and sign on. We should still ensure that their work is safe as possible, but it’s not exactly comparable to endangering animals who have obviously not volunteered.

bmmg39 on November 25, 2013 at 4:47 PM

We murder millions of innocent babies a year, but this relatively minor concern will get a lot of play. I expect my Facebook feed will be inundated with this new “crisis.”

mankai on November 25, 2013 at 2:51 PM

I guess some of us are just capable of caring about more than one thing at a time.

bmmg39 on November 25, 2013 at 4:48 PM

Dennis Prager once said that liberals like to minimize or obliterate the important distinctions between human & animal, between God & human, between male & female, as well as between good & evil.

itsnotaboutme on November 25, 2013 at 2:58 PM

Prager’s constant goings-on about the supposed “fundamental differences between men and women” are the main reason I don’t listen to his show much anymore. I’d probably have disagreements with him about animals, as well. I’ll agree with him about good and evil.

bmmg39 on November 25, 2013 at 4:51 PM

You’re comment was “eh, they’re animals”.

Just because they’re not people doesn’t mean that they should be relegated to second class status and abuse/exploitation for “entertainment”, which I put in scare quotes because most of the time it certainly isn’t worthy of sacrificing the life of anything and by any definition “unnecessary”.

I find seeing how people treat animals is an excellent barometer for how they’d treat people. I’ve rarely been directed in the wrong direction. I’m glad I don’t know you.

kim roy on November 25, 2013 at 3:49 PM

Correct, I said “eh, they’re animals.” They are a lower, non-sentient form of life with no inherent rights of their own. I don’t like to see people intentionally inflict pain on them because I do not like to see people take pleasure from inflicting pain of any kind. But, ultimately, animals do not have rights and we have dominion over them. If an animal dies during the making of a movie, that’s just not a big deal to me.

Regarding how people treat animals being a barometer for how they treat people, I’d suggest you take a look at your average PETA activist and re-think that statement. All the evidence I see in society suggests to me that we’ve gotten to the point of obsessive concern with the welfare of animals while simultaneously devaluing human life. We are kinder to our animals than we are to each other. And I think a healthy dose of perspective on where humans fall in the chain of importance vs. animals would do society a world of good.

Shump on November 25, 2013 at 5:20 PM

Just because they’re not people doesn’t mean that they should be relegated to second class status…

kim roy on November 25, 2013 at 3:49 PM

I failed to catch this part of your statement in my initial reply. Uh, yes it does. By saying they should not be relegated to “second class status,” you are implying that they should correctly have the same status as humans, which is absurd.

Shump on November 25, 2013 at 5:21 PM

One would think that the rise of CGI would alleviate the need for this kind of animal use anyway. Perhaps stories like this will provide further incentives for that outcome.

I don’t know, maybe it’s gotten better, but I still feel like they haven’t quite gotten past uncanny valley with CGI.
RINO in Name Only on November 25, 2013 at 12:54 PM

It’s not so much the UV thing – for me, 99.9% of CGI is just plain gawd-awful. Totally unwatchable. I’d honestly rather watch some guy in a rubber Godzilla suit knocking over cardboard buildings and uprooting miniature trees. Now that’s entertainment.

whatcat on November 25, 2013 at 5:22 PM

Dennis Prager once said that liberals like to minimize or obliterate the important distinctions between human & animal, between God & human, between male & female, as well as between good & evil.
itsnotaboutme on November 25, 2013 at 2:58 PM

He related a story about when he was giving a talk to a group of kids and gave them this scenario with a question:

If you were at the beach and you saw both your pet and a total stranger were drowning, which one would you rescue – knowing you can only save one?

When he asked for a show of hands of those who would save their pet, all hands went up except for one boy. So he asked the boy why he would save the stranger instead of his pet.

The boy told him, “My pet is a fish.”

whatcat on November 25, 2013 at 5:40 PM

I’ve been lurking on this thread, but I haven’t felt really inclined to comment until now.

I draw a distinction between animal rights, which I do not believe in, and animal welfare, which I wholeheartedly believe in. It is precisely because animals are within humanity’s dominion that we have a responsibility to them. Animals can be property in the sense that they can legally be bought and sold, and I think most people here would find that to be an ethically clear position. But going further and taking this assertion to its logical conclusion, there are important distinctions between living creatures and inanimate objects.

One of my personal heroes in the field of animal husbandry, Doctor Temple Grandin, summed it up beautifully in concrete terms. In a nutshell, animals can be property, but they are not things.

gryphon202 on November 26, 2013 at 6:15 AM

I guess some of us are just capable of caring about more than one thing at a time.

bmmg39 on November 25, 2013 at 4:48 PM

I care about the health of my children. I care about the health of my rose bush. If my child becomes deathly ill, I’m going to do all that I can and keep my family and friends updated with regular reports. Not so much with the rose bush.

My point is that we live in an age where people are concerned about dogs who are “suffering” on 40 ft. tethers (just outlawed where I live because this latest “crisis” was deafening) while we ignore the murder of millions in the womb, a subject most people don’t want to talk about. Those babies are not making a conscious decision to be murdered.

Just because they’re not people doesn’t mean that they should be relegated to second class status…

kim roy on November 25, 2013 at 3:49 PM

What? Of course it does.

mankai on November 26, 2013 at 9:57 AM

Can’t believe that many animals died to make “Pi.” Was it during the scenes where the main character hit Return?

CrustyB on November 26, 2013 at 10:55 AM

My point is that we live in an age where people are concerned about dogs who are “suffering” on 40 ft. tethers (just outlawed where I live because this latest “crisis” was deafening) while we ignore the murder of millions in the womb, a subject most people don’t want to talk about. Those babies are not making a conscious decision to be murdered.

…and you could tether a thousand dogs, kill a thousand horses, swat a thousand flies, and slaughter a thousand sheep, and none of that will save one unborn baby’s life. My decision not to wear leather or eat meat has also not caused any unborn children to be killed. Again, I can fight for more than one thing at a time.

bmmg39 on November 26, 2013 at 8:10 PM

…and you could tether a thousand dogs, kill a thousand horses, swat a thousand flies, and slaughter a thousand sheep, and none of that will save one unborn baby’s life. My decision not to wear leather or eat meat has also not caused any unborn children to be killed. Again, I can fight for more than one thing at a time.

bmmg39 on November 26, 2013 at 8:10 PM

What percentage of people that protest near abortion clinics might realistically be vegan? I know you can believe in the sanctity of all life, but that’s not the point. People that define themselves as animal rights activists are overwhelmingly “pro-choice” when it comes to baby killing. That’s a fact no matter how you slice it. Now, given that fact, would you care to speculate on why that is? Or would that move you outside your comfort zone?

gryphon202 on November 27, 2013 at 7:35 AM

You can agree strongly with a person on one thing and disagree with that person strongly on another thing. Or…a person’s being very wrong on one issue doesn’t mean (s)he is wrong on a different issue. Comfort zone this.

bmmg39 on November 27, 2013 at 2:02 PM

You can agree strongly with a person on one thing and disagree with that person strongly on another thing. Or…a person’s being very wrong on one issue doesn’t mean (s)he is wrong on a different issue. Comfort zone this.

bmmg39 on November 27, 2013 at 2:02 PM

Whatever. If you are really a pro(human)-life vegan who doesn’t wear leather and checks all your food labels for gelatin, you are in a microscopic minority. And I salute your obtusensss.

gryphon202 on November 28, 2013 at 9:39 AM

Which part of what I do do you find “obtuse”?

bmmg39 on November 28, 2013 at 11:47 AM