16 May 2011

'Water For Elephants' star endures horrific abuse during training

Animal Defenders International (ADI) has released a video showing the abusive training treatments of Tai the elephant, who is starring in the newly released movie Water For Elephants alongside Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson.

Tai, a 45-year-old Asian elephant, is owned by "Have Trunk Will Travel," a California company that supplies performing animals to the movie and advertising industries.

Statements had previously been released by American Humane, producers and stars assuring us that no animals were harmed in any way in the making of this movie.

Gary Johnson, a founder of Have Trunk Will Travel claimed: “Tai was never hit in any way at all."

Though American Humane was on hand to ensure all elephants were treated ethically during filming, the tortured training that they endured in the years prior to working in this movie has become evident. The video released by ADI, shows various scenes of Tai and other elephants being hooked, beaten and electrocuted, as they are made to perform unnatural and sometimes painful tricks or positions. Among the sickening scenes shown on the video are;

- Tai screaming when she is shocked with a hand-held stun gun as she performs a headstand.
- A baby elephant crying out when it is hooked in the lip with a bull hook.
- An elephant being pinned to the ground with bull hooks to have its tusks sawn down.
- A group of elephants running in a circle, shocked with an electric "hot shot."

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, one 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.”

Both Gary Johnson and trainer Joanne Smith are seen appearing in the video giving electric shocks to the elephants.

Not only does this video highlight the appalling treatment this elephant received that until now has been hidden away, it also provides insight into the treatment all wild animals may receive when trained for the sole purpose of public entertainment.

Sadly, these injustices will persist as long as the viewing public continues to flock to movies that include wild animals such as Tai. Though American Humane can assure us that no cruelty was committed during the filming of this movie, a short video recording is our only glimpse into what Tai’s life is truly like when her trailer rolls off the movie set.

You can learn more about how to support Tai and other animals through Animals Defenders International. Find them on twitter, facebook or their website.

Movie star electric shocked from Animal Defenders on Vimeo.

Karyn Pyle | @natureconspires
When her son was born, Karyn began a journey of researching the impact of our daily choices on our children, the earth and its inhabitants. Now a campaigner of safe food practices and animal rights; while studying holistic medicine, she writes about her passions of organic and eco living and the ethical treatment of animals. Follow Karyn at Natures Conspiracy and Facebook.

Photo credit: Screen capture ADI