In the making of the first movie in the new "Hobbit" trilogy, 27 animals died at a farm where they were housed during the filiming. Yet "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" still earned the certification, "American Humane monitored all of the significant animal action. No animals were harmed during such action" from the American Humane Association. AHA did give the film its "Monitored: Special Circumstances" rating.
Wranglers who worked on the film allege that the farm on which the animals were housed was filled with bluffs, sinkholes and other "death traps." The dead animals include three horses, six goats, six sheep and a dozen chickens. While some died of "natural causes," others died because of the hazards on the farm. Two additional horses were severely injured, but survived. AHA was called in and made safety recommendations, such as better fencing.
While AHA is distinguishing between its exemplary "No Animals Were Harmed" certification and "American Humane monitored all of the significant animal action. No animals were harmed during such action," most people won't notice the distinction. All they hear is "No animals were harmed."
And most people would be surprised to learn that a film can earn the certification of "No animals were harmed" even if animals died during the making of the film. Two horses died during the making of the film "Flicka," but because all AHA guidelines were followed, the film still earned the "No Animals Were Harmed" rating.
Furthermore, AHA's authority does not extend to housing and training of the animals. AHA monitors only on-set action. When the movie "Water for Elephants" was released, AHA put out a press release titled, "In 'Water for Elephants,' Safety Stars in the Center Ring: From Large Cats to Larvae, American Humane Association Certifies That 'No Animals Were Harmed'®" Soon afterwards, Animal Defenders International released a video showing the elephants being beaten during training sessions. Since the training took place prior to the making of the film, it was out of AHA's jurisdiction.
Mark Stubis, an AHA spokesperson, stated, "We would love to be able to monitor the training of animals and the housing of animals . . . It's something we are looking into. We want to make sure the animals are treated well all the time."
That's nice, but from an animal rights viewpoint, it doesn't matter whether the elephants are beaten or whether all the sinkholes are filled in - we don't have a right to use animals for our own purposes.
While a dog may arguably not suffer when trained and used as an actor in some situations, the same cannot be said about an elephant or other large animals. Even domestic horses must be "broken" before they can be ridden; having a human sitting on their back, telling them where to go and how fast to run is not in their nature. Other animals used in the film were tethered for certain shots, including cows, sheep, and chickens.
H/T to Linda Lowen, the Guide to Women's Issues, for the heads-up on this story.