Video released today by Animal Defenders International shows the elephant that appears alongside Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson in the new film Water for Elephants, being beaten and electric-shocked during training.
Water for Elephants, a romantic drama set in a 1930s animal circus in the USA, starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson, is premiering all over the world this month, with the London Premier last Tuesday. But the biggest star of the film is 42-year-old Asian elephant Tai, who plays Rosie, supplied by the performing animal supplier Have Trunk Will Travel, of California.
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.
Gary Johnson, a founder of Have Trunk Will Travel claimed: “Tai was never hit in any way at all”.
American Humane observed the animal action during filming and said: “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, has been posted online today by Animal Defenders International (ADI) after the London premier, that tells a different story.
- Elephants including Tai are repeatedly given electric shocks with hand held stun guns
- Tai cries out when being shocked into performing a headstand
- 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 whilst 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.”
Kari Johnson, another of the founders of Have Trunk Will Travel has 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.”
Gary Johnson and trainer Joanne Smith appear in the video giving the elephants electric shocks.
ADI are sending copies of the DVD to the film’s stars and makers.
Jan said: “I believe that Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson will be horrified to learn what Tai went through.”
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.
Mods, I hope this is allowed. I realise that it's a sensitive issue, but as a fan of both the movie and book, I figured other fans would want to know about this too.
Update: HTWT have responded to these allegations... they don't confirm whether or not bull hooks and/or electric shocks are still being used as training methods.