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Animal group blasts 'misleading' Hollywood abuse report

2013-11-27 11:45
life of pi
Los Angeles - A group tasked with protecting the welfare of animals in the film industry blasted as "misleading" on Tuesday a report suggesting it turns a blind eye to abuse because it is too cozy with Hollywood.

The Hollywood Reporter listed alleged incidents on films including the Oscar-winning Life of Pi, where it said the Bengal tiger which is central to the movie reportedly nearly drowned.

Twenty-seven animals involved in making the first movie of the Hobbit trilogy died, it said, also listing incidents where a chipmunk was squashed, a husky dog was punched, and fish died in making Pirates of the Caribbean.

But the American Humane Association (AHA) said the story "distorts the work and record of a respected nonprofit organisation that has kept millions of beloved animal actors safe on film and television sets around the world".

"The article is misleading and unfortunate," AHA senior advisor Karen Rosa told AFP. "I really think that the article does not paint a very accurate picture of the programme and the hard work that we do out there in the field."

"The article paints a picture that is completely unrecognisable to us or anyone who knows (our) work," added the group, which confers the "No Animals were Harmed" stamp listed at the end of films it has monitored.

'Story is rather exaggerated'

In its latest issue the Hollywood Reporter quotes an AHA monitor about an incident in which Richard Parker, the tiger which shares a shipwrecked lifeboat in Taiwanese director Ang Lee's Life of Pi, allegedly nearly drowned.

In an e-mail, the monitor recounted how the tiger "got lost trying to swim to the side," adding: "Damn near drowned... I think this goes without saying but DON'T MENTION IT TO ANYONE, ESPECIALLY THE OFFICE!"

"That was unfortunate," conceded AHA advisor Rosa, referring to the e-mail. "We believe that she exaggerated. But the bottom line was (...) the animal did not suffer any harm.

"Cats are good swimmers!" she added.

The industry journal also cited the case of a horse dying in the making of Steven Spielberg's Oscar-nominated 2011 film War Horse, and dozens of fish washed after special effects explosions on the Pirates of the Caribbean set.

A Spielberg spokesperson said the Hollywood Reporter story was exaggerated, but essentially accurate in terms of its description of what happened on War Horse.

"What they wrote was essentially what happened," spokesperson Marvin Levy told AFP. "But there was no cover up (...) the whole story is rather exaggerated in many places.

"Safety was the prime consideration throughout the entire film," he said.

'Funds are neutral'

The industry journal's lengthy investigation claimed the AHA has a fundamental conflict of interest, because its funding came from two industry bodies.

Rosa said the group got about two thirds of its funding from industry, but insisted: "Those funds are neutral. Nobody tells us what sets we can monitor, how we're to monitor them."

"Far from allowing abuse or neglect to occur, we have a remarkably high safety record of 99.98 percent on set," added the AHA statement.

It acknowledged that accidents did occur. "Over a span of many years, despite our best efforts, there have occasionally been rare accidents, most of them minor and not intentional."

But Bob Ferber, a veteran LA prosecutor who ran a city Animal Protection Unit, told the Hollywood Reporter: "It's fascinating and ironic: from being the protectors of animals they've become complicit to animal cruelty."

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