Three weeks after Global Animal ran an expose on elephant abuse at Barnum & Bailey’s Circus, more proof has surfaced that torture is used to ‘train’ elephants to stand on their head and perform other unnatural poses. Even the movie Water For Elephants, ironically, about the torture of a circus elephant, is a case of cruelty as usual.
This is worth emphasizing: Any time you or your child see an elephant performing tricks, whether at a circus, on TV or in a movie, it’s nearly certain that a sharp bullhook and stun guns surging volts of electricity are being used to torture these gentle creatures into submission. For our entertainment. We can no longer claim we didn’t know.
Please read this and pass it on. Boycott the movie and while you’re at it, consider joining the Boycott The Big Top by Global Animals everywhere of Ringling Bros. (The link provides animal-friendly event alternatives nationwide as well as the circus’ schedule). Only outrage will stop this, and if the video at the end of this article doesn’t outrage us, nothing will. – Global Animal
Water for Elephants, a romantic drama set in a 1930s animal circus in the USA, starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson, premieres all over the world this month, with the London Premier last Tuesday. But the biggest star of the film is 45-year-old Asian elephant Tai, who plays Rosie, supplied by the California performing animal supplier Have Trunk Will Travel.
In the film Rosie, played by Tai, is brutally attacked by the circus owner who beats her with a bull hook. But the producers, stars, and trainers have been at pains to stress that Tai was trained with kindness, marshmallows, and positive reinforcement.
The American Humane Society, which oversaw the animal action during the filming, stated: “We’re here observing prep on Water for Elephants and so we’re here to make sure that everybody knows that not only the action on set but also the prep is humanely done, all these animals have been treated fairly and humanely throughout the entire course of their training.”
However, shocking video filmed at Have Trunk Will Travel in 2005 was posted online by Animal Defenders International (ADI) following the movie’s London premier. The video is of the company’s elephant trainers engaged in the sort of animal abuse that Water For Elephants and Have Trunk Will Travel claim to eschew, including:
- Tai cries out when being shocked into performing a headstand
- Elephants including Tai are repeatedly given electric shocks with hand held stun guns
- Elephants including Tai are beaten about the body and legs with bull hooks
- A baby elephant is hooked in the lip and cries out
- An elephant is pinned with bull hooks while her tusks are sawn down, close to the bone
Jan Creamer, Chief Executive of ADI said: “We were uncomfortable with the message of this film, but the more we saw the repeated assertions that this elephant has been treated with love and affection and never been abused, we realized that we had to get the truth out. The public, the stars and the filmmakers have been duped. This poor elephant was trained to do the very tricks you see in the film by being given electric shocks.”
Gary Johnson and trainer Joanne Smith, who trained Tai, appear in the video giving elephants electric shocks.
Kari Johnson, another of the founders of Have Trunk Will Travel previously stated, “Have Trunk Will Travel has never issued a written endorsement, nor does it condone using electrical devices to discipline and control elephants except in situations where elephant or human safety is at risk.”
Animal Defenders International is sending copies of the DVD to the Water For Elephants stars and filmmakers.
“I believe that Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson will be horrified to learn what Tai went through,” said Ms. Creamer.
ADI has also contacted American Humane, urging them to re-evaluate how they assess the use of animals in films and the statements being made which effectively endorse the use of performing animals.
What You Can Do
Animal Defenders International suggests the following:
- Contact ADI to find out how you can speak up for Tai and all animals being abused in the entertainment industry. If you live in the UK, please contact [email protected]. If you live in the U.S. please contact [email protected] and ask for a Water for Elephants Letter Writing Pack.
- Boycott this film and tell your family and friends to take a stand against animal cruelty by only supporting films without animal actors.
- Leaflet moviegoers at a theater near you to educate them about the abuse of Tai and other performing animals. Contact ADI to order leaflets.
- Contact your local theater with a copy of the DVD we can provide you, and politely ask them to make the right choice and stop showing the film.
- Contact ADI for a letter writing pack with sample letters to Water for Elephants actors and movie makers, and sample letters to the editor to help you raise your voice for Tai and the other animals abused for entertainment.
- Write a letter to your local paper about Tai’s abuse and educate the public that animal suffering is never romantic and it is never entertainment. (Sample letters available in our letter writing pack.)
- Contact the Director and Producer and politely ask that they make Water for Elephants the last film they do using live animal actors. (Contacts and sample letters available in our letter writing pack.)
- Share the link to the video on your Facebook and other social networking sites, to spread the word to family and friends.
“There is only so much that can be monitored on set or by visits to suppliers, as we have shown before the actual training goes on in secret. But, as this video shows, the reality is that this elephant was taught the tricks seen in the film by being given electric shocks,” says Ms. Creamer.
“Animal suffering is never romantic and it is never entertainment. People need to think very carefully before they go and see films with performing animals, especially wild animals like elephants. Our message would have to be that if you care about animals, then don’t go to see films where performing animals appear.” added Jan Creamer.
Last month Anne, the last elephant with a British circus, was removed from Bobby Roberts Circus after ADI filmed the horrific abuse of the old elephant in the circus winter quarters. It was one of a series of investigations by ADI of the systematic abuse of circus elephants, most recently the beating of elephants at the Great British Circus in 2009. Anne had also been hired out for television work.
ALERT: VIDEO CONTAINS GRAPHIC AND DISTURBING IMAGES