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Los Angeles - The animal star of Water for Elephants has been abused by its trainers.
An animal rights group has released video footage of elephant Tai - who appeared in the movie alongside Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson - being stunned by electric shocks and hit with large metal hooks in 2005 before crying out in pain when shot with a stun gun while performing a headstand.
While Water for Elephants producers have insisted no creatures were harmed in the making of the movie, one campaigner has urged animal lovers to avoid seeing the film altogether so other elephants don't suffer the same fate as Tai.
Jan Creamer, the chief executive of Animal Defenders International, which obtained the shocking footage, said: "I believe that Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson will be horrified to learn what Tai went through. There is only so much that can be monitored on set or by visits. The actual training goes on in secret.
"But, as this video shows, the reality is that this elephant was taught the tricks seen in the film by being given electric shocks. Animal suffering is never romantic and it is never entertainment. Our message is that if you care about animals, then don't go to see films where performing animals appear."
However, Californian performing animal firm Have Trunk Will Travel - who own 42-year-old Tai - have stood by their training methods, saying they are "proud" of their commitment to animal conservation.
In a statement to the Daily Mirror newspaper, co-founders Gary and Kari Johnson explained: "We stand by our care and training methods. We are proud of our contributions to elephant welfare and conservation.
"The video shows heavily edited and very short snippets taken six years ago purporting mistreatment of our elephants. None of the footage being shown was taken during Tai's training for Water for Elephants."
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