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Animals in Film: "No Animal Was Harmed" Just Isn't So

Abuse on film sets continues and animals need a break from the blaming game

Animals are routinely harmed and killed on film sets. I've written about this abuse in previous essays (see also and, and please click here for a general discussion) and it's not just animal rights activists who are extremely upset at the incredibly poor treatment animals receive when they're used in film. 

In an essay published today in the New York Times called "Speaking for the Animals on Film Sets" by Michael Cieply some of the gory details are covered. I want to call your attention to this major problem because it's all too often written off as being negligible or just a bunch of misleading hype of those who argue that animals deserve rights. As Mr. Cieply notes, and others agree, it's not. 

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Where is the American Humane Association while this abuse continues to occur?

The American Humane Association is supposed to be on the lookout for animal abuse but clearly has not done its job although they've published a long set of guidelines so that animals can be safely used in filmed media and at the end of a film it can be truthfully said, "No animals were harmed". Their failure to do their job is extremely disquieting and very harmful. 

So what's the problem? Here are a few snippets from Mr. Cieply's much needed and timely essay:

"Trainers and others in the business accuse the association of being too cozy with the industry, which provides its financing, and of being more interested in expanding its power than exercising it.

"The humane association argues that it is struggling to meet the challenges of protecting animals in an era of modern filmmaking. 'We’re not covering enough animal action, because of the way the business model in the industry has changed,' Robin R. Ganzert, the association’s chief executive, said in a phone interview last month."

It's all too easy to blame others for one's own faults and it's clear from the New York Times essay that people are playing the blaming game and not owning up to the role they play in the continued abuse of animals in film. And, while they claim they're not to blame or that there is some sort of conspiracy, animals needlessly die. 

The good news is that there is a hearing this coming week at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences but the bad news is that Warner Brothers is the only major studio planning to attend as of this writing. Why isn't attendance at this meeting required?

Let's stop using live animals in film once and for all: Our choices count

One way to stop the use and continued abuse of animals in film is to stop using them once and for all. A wonderful example of what can be done is the movie "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" (please see "'Rise of the Planet of the Apes'" shows that real primates no longer need to be used in movies"). 

You can voice your opinion by contacting the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences at 5220 Lankershim Blvd North Hollywood, California 91601; telephone: (818) 754-2800) or you can email them here. You can also contact movie studios and email the American Humane Association at info@americanhumane.org. You can also choose to watch films in which animals were not used.

The animals who are used in film do not have a choice but we do, and we can easily make a huge difference by letting those who continue to abuse animals or look the other way or play the blaming game and shun responsibility know that we do not like what they do and that we will not watch their films.

Note: For more on this topic and an informative historical perspective please see Randy Malamud's essay "Animals on Film: The ethics of the human gaze" published in 2010. 

 

Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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