By Kalee Brown, Collective Evolution
In all honesty, I’m a huge fan of watching movies. Of course I prefer movies with conscious undertones, but I would generally watch any movie that had a cool plot and good reviews. However, if I knew what was going on behind the scenes, I’m sure I wouldn’t have watched (and raved about) some of the movies I’ve seen.
Upcoming Movie “A Dog’s Purpose” Faces Animal Abuse Allegations
As a dog lover and strong believer in reincarnation, I was super excited for the film, “A Dog’s Purpose,” to hit theatres. The trailer explores the past lives of an adorable dog that becomes incredibly attached to its owner, explaining that each and every one of us have a purpose here on Earth, which includes dogs. After dying, the dog reincarnates into another puppy who by fate ends up back in the hands of its original owner. You can watch the trailer here (and beware, it may bring you to tears).
On Wednesday, January 18, TMZ leaked the following footage, which clearly shows that the dog, Hercules, does not want to go into the turbulent water. Despite Hercules’ clear attempts to escape the water, his handler forces him in. Soon after, the dog goes under and divers quickly rescue him.
According to the Washington Post, the video has resulted in an investigation into its filming. The video has sparked a lot of controversy because of the dog’s unmistakable fear and the way the crew treats him. You can hear multiple voices in the background laughing and saying, “Just throw him in,” as if that’s any way to treat an animal.
Nevertheless, the production company, Amblin Entertainment, and distributor, Universal Pictures, released a joint statement claiming that the video footage was “edited” and stated, “the Amblin production team followed rigorous protocols to foster an ethical and safe environment for the animals.”
The statement goes on to say, “While we continue to review the circumstances shown in the edited footage, Amblin is confident that great care and concern was shown for the German Shepherd Hercules, as well as for all of the other dogs featured throughout the production of the film… There were several days of rehearsal of the water scenes to ensure Hercules was comfortable with all of the stunts. On the day of the shoot, Hercules did not want to perform the stunt portrayed on the tape so the Amblin production team did not proceed with filming that shot.”
Well, from what I can tell, the public isn’t buying it and neither is the movie crew. Numerous people involved with the film have already voiced their anger and distaste regarding the treatment of Hercules.
Gavin Polone, one of the producers, told Variety, “Had I been on the set, this would have never happened. This movie got made because of how I feel about animals. So this happened 15 months ago and should have been investigated immediately. It’s unconscionable that someone waited a year and three months to call attention to this.”
The director, Lasse Hallstrom, tweeted, “I am very disturbed by the video released today from the set of my film A dog’s purpose. I did not witness these actions. We were all committed to providing a loving and safe environment for all the animals in the film. I have been promised that a thorough investigation into this situation is underway and that any wrongdoing will be reported and punished.”
Actor Josh Gad, who plays the dog’s voice in the film, stated he was, “shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will,” and that he, “reached out to the production team and studio to ask for an explanation for these disturbing images.”
PETA is asking their supporters and any dog/animal lovers in general to boycott the film in order to fight this type of cruelty. American Humane Association (AHA) is even investigating the film, which is the organization responsible for governing the safety and protection of animal actors, and has suspended the on-set AHA safety representative.
What’s worse is that this isn’t the first time animal cruelty occurred on-set of a movie, it’s just gaining a lot of media attention right now.
How 27 Animals Died While Filming The Hobbit
A Dog’s Purpose may be what’s in the tabloids now, but it wasn’t long ago that other popular movies such as Life of Pi and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and the HBO horse-racing drama Luck (which was cancelled because four horses died on-set) were under public scrutiny.
During the shooting of Life of Pi, the Bengal tiger that acted as the circus animal “Richard Parker” allegedly almost drowned during a scene in a water tank. The tiger was reportedly caught with a rope and abruptly dragged to the side of the tank. The AHA was accused of not adequately protecting the animals on-set. In fact, the AHA witnessed that particular event and still permitted the film to claim that, “no animals were harmed in the making of this film.”
This was exposed after an AHA email was leaked stating, “This one take with him just went really bad and he got lost trying to swim to the side. Damn near drowned… I think this goes without saying but don’t mention anything to anyone! Especially the office. Have downplayed the fuck out of it.”
The AHA was also under extreme heat when the press discovered that while filming The Hobbit, a shocking 27 animals died from exhaustion, dehydration or drowning in 2011. One of the animal trainers on-set told the AHA about the deaths in 2012 and that he personally buried them and could provide them with their remains as proof. However, the AHA responded explaining that there “wasn’t enough evidence.”
Despite these deaths, the AHA awarded The Hobbit with the carefully crafted claim, “monitored all of the significant animal action. No animals were harmed during such action.”
Other reported animal cruelty and fatalities during filming include Disney’s 2006 film Eight Below, the 2006 comedy Failure to Launch, the 2011 comedy Zookeeper, and the classic adventure Pirates of the Caribbean in 2003. So, during the ending credits, if you see the claim, “No animals were harmed during the making of this film,” perhaps you shouldn’t believe it.
How Can I Only Support Movies That Are Cruelty-Free?
Well, this is certainly easier said than done. It’s clear that the only real enforcer of animal rights in the film industry, the AHA, cannot be fully trusted to do their job. One of the best ways to ensure you’re supporting cruelty-free films is to simply do your research. If you do find out that one of your favourite movies contains animal cruelty, then perhaps you should stop supporting it!
I believe the underlying message here is that we should all be more careful of what we watch. We live in a society that truly values film and television, but how does that affect our vibration? By watching a movie or a TV show, you’re exposing yourself to a certain vibration depending on how it was made and what the intention behind it was. Movies could be designed to educate you or they could be another form of mind control or propaganda. So, any movie-lovers out there, I’m not suggesting you stop watching films altogether, but be conscious of what you’re exposing yourself to and supporting!