The International Animal Welfare Association (IAWA) is a non-profit association consisting of animal owners, trainers and caretakers who participate with their animals in the entertainment, education and zoological industries. Our members were both shocked and saddened to see the recent misleading article authored by Mr.Gary Baum and posted in the Hollywood Reporter (THR), a historical publication in the California film and television industry. The article blatantly and irresponsibly attacked the American Humane Association (AHA), a 136 year old none-profit and “true” animal welfare organization. It also attacked animal owners/trainers and the film industry that utilizes animals in film and television today, the very industry that is the foundation of THR. The article’s editorial, as well as its extremely sensationalistic illustrations, were misleading and undeserving to say the least. Although its author later suggested on television that the article was aimed at bettering the lives of animals used in his industry, we felt it was clearly representative of extremist activist’s opinions, suggesting that all animals should be removed from any form of human care and custody.
“SENSATIONALISM AND MISINFORMATION AT ITS BEST, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER DEFINES AN ABUSE OF JOURNALISM.”
In answer to just a few of those misleading comments written in the article, we urge all to visit the AHA website and read their response to THR’s attack, a response we feel is far more transparent and worthy of reading. Their response included facts to clarify several of the inflated and misrepresented scenarios described in the article such as:
- The article claimed that a dog suffering from cancer died during the production of “Our Idiot Brother.” Sadly, a dog did take ill and was indeed diagnosed with cancer, but the illness was in no way work-related and certainly was not due to any activity related to the production or poor treatment by its owner or handlers.
- The article also suggested that a horse died during post-production (after the animal left the set and was no longer a participant on the show) after being filmed for “War Horse.” What it does not say however is that AHA’s jurisdiction does not extend to post-production or transit. In fact, the horse mentioned, finished its work and was checked out of production. In transit home, according to a veterinarian, it died of natural causes that could have just as easily happened if it were being returned home from a recreational trail ride.
Another claim listed in the article spoke of horses that suffered from colic on the show “There will be blood”. As stated in a report authored by the renown UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in California, approximately 920,000 horses suffer from colic every year, 64,000 of those cases which are potentially life threatening to the horse. An extremely few number of those animals are in the entertainment industry but if such an incident happens to a horse that participates in the entertainment industry ~ before, during or after a project ~ extremist activists with hidden and misleading agendas, manipulate the facts to mislead the public into thinking negligence along with the entertainment industry were to blame. We feel THR practiced this very means of deceit in this article. In truth Mr. Baum, tigers love to swim and the possibility of the AHA representative overreacting to a water response she was unfamiliar with during the filming of ”Life of Pi” should not have been dismissed on her word alone.
The extremely lengthy and reckless attack relates unfortunate real life accidents that were beyond the scope of any guideline or human control, to alleged acts of neglect. “Accidents,” as defined by the word itself; unfortunate acts of nature. The only truly means of preventing these incidents would require removing animals from the industry completely. Even then however, such incidents could still very well have happened at someone’s home or zoological institution. In fact, they do happen, every day, but without the colorful and sensational coverage that the movie industry tends to add to the equation. The ￼￼author hides under a cloud of words such as “internal critics”, “potentially”, “allegedly”, “anonymous”, “allegations” etc…, all aimed at avoiding truth and fact.
In our eyes, accusations quoted in the article by those unwilling to step up to the plate and validate those accusations in person should be held unqualified and untrustworthy! As for their reason for remaining anonymous being the threat of their loosing their jobs, we feel such actions further defines their lack of integrity as they continue working for an organization that they feel is evidently so detrimental to the animals.
The members of IAWA feel it is important for all to know that they work hand in hand with any and all agencies and organizations in an attempt to better the lives of our animals both on and off production sets. We commend those within the industry who support the financial requirements for AHA to accomplish their task, regardless of such articles making slanderous accusations about conflict of interest and wrong doing. One could very well argue that a person’s personal contribution to local non-profit police and fire groups is doing the same thing. Supporting the very individuals who provide us with service. The entertainment organizations (SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP) are simply supporting the only effort currently available to them in order to be a participant in the evolution of their industry. If they did not contribute as a result of the bullying from such articles, the same author would have no doubt attacked them for doing nothing to help better the lives of animals on their productions. Many of us who have businesses are familiar with the clich advertising pitch, “…you can’t afford not to advertise…” but in fact we also know that unless the funds are available in our accounts, we CAN NOT in fact afford some mediums. The article clearly asks AHA to perform outside the scope of their financial ability, further suggesting they are negligent for being unable to do so; again, unfair and unreasonable. Being charged with the extremely expensive cost of caring for animals, IAWA members regret that we could not afford the $30,000.00 price of purchasing a one-time/one page ad in the Hollywood Reporter to fairly respond to the publications unfair use of their platform. We also questioned whether or not we “could afford not to…”, but in the end, our animal’s financial needs were far more deserving of such funding, prohibiting us from doing so.
Animal Training, as with every other aspect of human history, continues to evolve as we gain experience and knowledge in the areas of human and animal relationships. Much of this forerunning has been at the bequest of animal owners and trainers. Given that the article amplifies its sensationalism by citing incidents dated as far back as 1959, we must keep in mind that much like human rights, animal rights have progressed in a similar manner. IAWA members have been and will continue to be participants and initiators in the health and well being of our animal counterparts, both mentally and physically, in and out of the entertainment industry. In doing so, we neither object to or lobby against the use or progress of computer-generated imagery (CGI) in films for we agree there is a clear need for such in order to accomplish shots that could be detrimental to the health and well-being of the animals. In fact, many owners and trainers participate in the creation of CGI libraries.
We continue to feel that all animals can be raised, trained and handled on film and television sets in a manner that is physically and mentally stimulating; a positive and rewarding experience for all concerned. In doing so, the same animals continue to make the tremendous contribution to education, world conservation and family values. We can only hope that THR has not climbed on board the radical extremist bandwagons that dismiss the valuable attention a movie like War Horse brought to all the honorable animal veterans in our nation’s history; or the incredible conservation message “Life of Pi” brought to our world; or the family values TV shows like Lassie, Flipper, Born Free and Tarzan brought into so many homes around the world. The list could go on and on.
We will continue to do our very best to prevent accidents from happening and support any and all efforts to prosecute those truly guilty of neglect but as the NFL will never author a protocol guaranteeing that another player will never again get hurt on their playing fields, and the stunt organizations will never be able to guarantee that one of their members will never again be injured during the making of a film, animal trainers face the same realities. We can only hope such articles will not misrepresent those incidents, dementing our continued efforts to better the lives of our animals on and off film and television sets. No one loves and sacrifices more for them than those of us who wake, live, work and sleep with these animals every day of our lives.
Members of IAWA