Warning! Animals Were Harmed During The Making of This Movie

Ally Bernstein

Now wouldn’t that be nice. The truth, for once. But no, the disclaimer, “No animals were harmed during the filming of this movie” will roll right across the 60 foot movie theater screen as the new film, “The Hobbit”, reels right along this December. In an article published last week, the American Humane Association claimed that “no animals were harmed during the actual filming.” While it might be true that no animals were harmed during the filming, it is not true that no animals were filmed during the making of “The Hobbit”.  In fact, 27 animals died unnecessary deaths due to the horrendous housing conditions they were kept in for use in the film.

The company continued to use the farm even after whistleblowers on the production set contacted PETA because they were concerned for the animals. PETA immediately sent a letter expressing their concern for the safety of the animals. Spokespeople for the production company claim that some of the deaths were due to natural causes but others were avoidable and could have prevented. Horses, chickens, goats, and sheep died at the farm where 150 animals were being housed in Wellingtion, New Zealand, because the farm was filled with death traps. Amongst some of these death traps were sink holes, bluffs, open fencing, and exposure to dangerous predators. As a result, horses were left with their backs broken and sheep were left to fall into sinkholes for days without anyone noticing…. Yet, no animals were harmed.

The American Humane Association (AHA) is the organization responsible for overseeing how animals are treated during film production. They also have the rights to the “No Animals Were Harmed”® that appears at the end of movies. Their codified agreement with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) certifies that if the animals used in films are treated humanely with oversight by the AHA the film can bear the “No Animals Were Harmed”® disclaimer at the end of the film. Producers and filmmakers work with the AHA in order for the rights to that disclaimer because their SAG contract requires them to do so. A films involvement with SAG gives their movie credit and “increases the film’s distribution and public appeal.” Well then what does this disclaimer do for the animals?

The AHA has an extensive set of guidelines that film producers are required to follow while working with the animals. Guidelines ranging from location safety, food requirements, and species specific guidelines are encompassed in a detailed 127 page book. But, is anyone actually ensuring that they are followed? The AHA claims that they require specific trainers to handle the animals, that they provide extensive training to film crews on handling animals, and that they ensure compliance by responding to all questions concerns, and complaints about animals used in films.

The recent events raise some serious concerns about the quality of AHA’s seemingly truthful disclaimer that “No Animals Were Harmed”® and the misguided assurance we all feel when we see it in the credits of the movie. Ever since I can remember, I have always bugged my brother during movies where animals are being harmed and asking him, “do you ever think some of them are really hurt and no one is telling us?” A question to which his response was always, “Don’t be ridiculous, Ally, it’s just a movie. Of course not… it even says no animals are harmed. They can’t just say that without it being true.” ….Well maybe they can…and maybe I have been right all of these years.

5 Responses

  1. Thanks for the timely warning, Ally. I’ll let my friends with young children know ….

    The need we have to believe “authority” figures — as your brother did when he read the reassuring words scrolling across the movies you and he watched — makes it possible for leaders and experts to warp our innate trust in man’s goodness

    Two little points on your sentence “While it might be true that no animals were harmed during the filming, it is not true that no animals were filmed during the making of ‘The Hobbit.'”

    I think you meant (a second) “harmed” instead of “filmed” and I think you meant to italicize the word “making” to contrast it with the italicized “filming.”

    It would correctly read (I’ll use stars to show italicized words): While it might be true that no animals were harmed during the *filming,* it is not true that no animals were harmed during the *making* of “The Hobbit.” (note: the period always goes inside the quote marks, even though it’s the title of the film).

    How pathetic that no one checked the farm’s conditions ahead of filming, monitored the animals during their stay at the farm, or cared even after the whistleblowing attempt.

    So innocent animals died agonizing deaths, all because the director didn’t assign value to them except insofar as they could be “used” for his profit-making purposes.

    And all because the AHA did its usual deceptive dance, lying while pretending to tell the truth, and acting as apologist for the abusers instead of protectors from abuse or even, at bare minimum, belated defenders of the abused.

    May each of the 27 individuals — horses, chickens, goats, sheep — who died during the making of “The Hobbit” rest in peace.

    By contrast, how fitting it would be for each child on earth to find out the animals’ fate, refuse to see the movie, and cause the film to fall into a sinkhole — unattended, “unknelled, uncoffined, unknown.”*

    *From the poem, “Chile Harold’s Pilgrimage by Lord Byron (nee George Gordon Byron, 1788-1824)

  2. Seems like there should be some legal requirement for the film industry to follow guidelines for animal treatment and the fines should be severe if they are found to violate them as they should be easy to comply with.

  3. How does someone take action, as it seems letters go unnoticed? It is a huge concern. The welfare of animals deserves respect.

  4. Reblogged this on " OUR WORLD".

  5. […] Girls preface their “feminist parody” with an adaptation of the American Humane Association’s empty promise: “NO MEN WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS VIDEO.” The Girls maintain control over […]

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