It has all the qualities of a Hollywood ‘classic’ – A beautiful, successful actress, a young and handsome actor, an endearing storyline based on an acclaimed best-selling book, and an unexpected romance in a uniquely compelling setting.
However, the starry-eyed bubble that surrounded the Water for Elephants movie has been abruptly burst, with a dark and sinister truth surfacing recently about how the real stars of the film were trained.
Starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson, Water for Elephants is a romantic drama set in an animal circus in the 1930s, which is premiering at cinemas around the globe this month. The star of the show is a 45-year-old Asian elephant Tai, who plays Rosie, the elephant that is viciously beaten by the circus owner in the film.
Tai was supplied by Californian-based performing animal supplier Have Trunk Will Travel, whose founder, Gary Johnson, claims “Tai was never hit in any way at all.”
There is, however, some recent evidence that completely contradicts these claims, proving that the animals, including Tai, were subjected to serious mistreatment during training at Have Trunk Will Travel in 2005.
Evidence of Abuse
A video made by the animal rights group Animal Defenders International (ADI), has been recently posted online revealing all of the abuse.
The video showed the elephants repeatedly given electric shocks with a hand held shot gun, Tai crying out when being shocked into performing a headstand, elephants being beaten with bull hooks, a baby elephant being hooked in the lip and crying out in pain, and an elephant being pinned to the ground with bull hooks whilst her tusks are sawn off.
I have always been slightly dubious about the treatment and humanity of such animal ‘endearment’ films. After all, how can wild animals, such as elephants, possibly enjoy having to perform for human entertainment?
In spite of my suspicions, I have never felt comfortable watching animal-orientated movies. Sharing my sentiments is Jan Creamer, chief executive of ADI, who was determined to uncover the truth about the abuse the elephants used in the film Water For Elephants. According to Jan Creamer:
“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.”
But have the public, the stars and the filmmakers really been duped? Or does the entertainment industry actually turn a blind eye to such animal cruelty?
Given my suspicions towards the humaneness of how you train an elephant to stand on its head, wouldn’t those working on the film, witnessing such ‘unnatural’ behaviour daily, also be suspicious? Or do they hastily push such ‘uncomfortable’ thoughts to the back of their minds as they quickly remember how much money they are making out of the film?
Whether or not those involved with the making of animal-orientated films possess such doubts or not, is immaterial to the ADI whose main objective is to highlight the issues surrounding the Water for Elephants movie.
Perspectives from Animal Rights Activists
Talking exclusively to Top Secret Writers, Phil Buckley, media relations director at ADI said:
“We really don’t think that Hollywood is aware that such cruel practises occur, hence our reason for highlighting the issue.”
It is all very well, Hollywood being unaware of such inhumane practices on animals, and particularly wild animals like elephants – but the very nature of exploiting such animals for the entertainment industry for the fundamental focus of making money is arguably an unnatural and cruel act in itself.
Agreeing with this sentiment is the Vegan Society in Great Britain. Keen to get a perspective from a British animal rights group, I spoke to Amanda Baker, public relations officer at the Vegan Society, who was happy to share her views and those of the Vegan Society about the video and such controversial issues. Ms. Baker told me:
“The apparent cruelty to elephants in the film industry reported in this video is simply the tip of an unbelievably huge iceberg. Whether it’s in circuses, zoos or films in the entertainment business, or on meat, milk or egg farms in the farming business, vegans stand against all forms of use or abuse of other animals. Our vision is for animals like elephants to live free from human interference in protected habitats. Our message to film producers, and the entertainment industry: There is no reason to use other animals for human entertainment at all.”
With the forthcoming movie Water for Elephants looking set to be a Hollywood blockbuster, and predicted to make millions of dollars, try telling the producers of the film – of which an old Asian elephant is the star – that the use of animals for human entertainment should be completely vetoed. How would they respond?
You can view the original video posted at the ADI website.Originally published on TopSecretWriters.com