Animal cruelty in movies

Why are there still horrendous examples of animal cruelty in movies when Animal Liberation groups have such high profiles? You would expect animals rights people to have sabotaged videos of O Brother Where Art Thou for instance, maybe by putting stickers on the covers in rental shops. What are the worst examples of cruelty to animals by movie makers? In my opinion “Gladiator” was responsible for horrendous treatment of horses generally. The first scenes of the movie “Snow White” (1998) with Sigourney Weaver involved shocking abuse of the same animals. In the English film “Jude” a pig was hung up and killed in real time (by a woman). The trouble is, my grandmother used to have to do the same kind of thing and I’m sure your great-great grandmothers (at least) did it too. There are things about women that when you think about them… oh well. Getting back to movies. O Brother Where Art Thou treated cows like…they were already in an abattoir, I suppose. I’m sure there are a lot worse. I would like to hear about them.

I would like to clarify my last sentence - it doesn’t sound right. I mean: I would like to hear of other instances of animal cruelty to the ones I have mentioned. Thank you.

Do you mean animals that are … um … acting? I don’t know what to call it besides “acting” – but you can train a horse to fall over on command, for example. Or animals that you suspect are actually abused during the making of a film?

Many years ago, a horsey group that I belonged to called for a boycott of the Conan the Barbarian films, because they believed that the horses were not trained to fall over, but rather tripped with wires.

Yeah, I’ve got the same question as delphica. If you mean why is there cruelty to animals in the stories in films, I’d say that different filmmakers think it is important to those stories. You might object to how animals are depicted, but that’s just your opinion (though that is completely valid). If a film is looking to be historically accurate, and hunting animals (for example) was something important to the historical period and is something that the filmmakers think is important to the story, then I don’t think they should be expected to censor it. But that, as well, is just my opinion. It’s the debate of censoring the past because it’s frowned upon in the present, and I won’t say anything more about that, here (not the proper forum for that).

However, if you mean cruelty to animals in the making of films, then that’s a different matter all together. Most (if not all) major films have animal organizations (the Humane Society, for example) monitor the use of animals in their films. They then put their stamp at the end of the film to show no animals were abused in the making of the film. Sometimes, this comes after a lot of scrutiny. In the case of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the cow that was hit was a completely Computer Generated Graphic. The Humane Society made the filmmakers go through the entire process they used to do this before they would ok the picture, because it seemed so realistic.

In the scene that delphica brought up, the filmmakers had to show the animal rights groups the cut sections of the film that showed the horse was all right. In reality, it was actually the stunt-rider who was injured in that scene.

Whether a horse is “trained” to fall down or is brought down by trip wires is fairly irrelevant. What you see is what you get as far as I’m concerned. If an animal looks like it’s suffering it is suffering. A horse is unlikely to be able to reason, “Well, if I’m good at my job and scream and writhe realistically, when my legs get broken I’ll be given a pension and sent to Horse Heaven retirement village” is it?

I should have said “erroneously reason”. Sorry.

There have been two recent cases where the British Board of Film Classification (the ratings organisation) has had to rule on animal cruelty issues. In the more obviously high profile case, they decided that the dog fighting in Amores Perros didn’t involve cruelty to the animals involved and passed the film uncut. However, in the other case, they ruled that a bird being captured in Before Night Falls was evidently in distress and required that the scene be cut. For what it’s worth, having seen this UK release version, the deletion is sufficiently seemless that I’ve no idea where it was in the film.

silent_rob’s distinction between under what circumstances should animal cruelty be represented on screen and whether the animals involved are actually suffering seems important. That said, I can see that some people would object to the cow scene even though it involves no actual use of cow.

And it should be noted that the safeguards concerning the use of animals in films are relatively recent.

This isn’t really a General Question. It looks headed for Great Debates

moderator, GQ

I’m afraid I don’t understand why this is irrelevant. Perhaps I shouldn’t have described it as falling down … the horses are trained to roll over so that it looks as if they are falling down. Their legs aren’t being broken. Some people train their dogs to “play dead” but the dog isn’t really suffering even though it might look like it. The dog probably doesn’t know that rolling over and wiggling its legs and then flopping down looks like suffering to people, but it does know that it will get a treat after.

Are you saying that it is too risky to train a horse to roll over, and that it might get its legs broken on accident during filming? This would be a very sad possibility, but since these animals are provided by professional trainers who are monitored by humane societies, I have to put my faith in the quality of the monitoring. If the humane society says it is OK, I will go with that because I can’t quit my job and go investigate movie sets personally. If this is a concern, that animals are being injured frequently despite the safeguards in place, then I would be interested in seeing some cites that document the abuse.

Silent_Rob, thanks for the follow up on the Conan movie issue! I love it when I get resolution on things that happened years ago.

I believe the case that brought the Humane Society down on Hollywood’s head, had to do with the film The Missouri Breaks ( which, animal cruelty aside, is a fine movie - Jack Nicholson, Harry Dean Stanton, and Marlon Brando ), where a couple of horses were drowned during the course of filming ( it is easy to pick out the scene where it happened ). Since then, as has been mentioned, films produced in Hollywood have had to adhere to a pretty stiff code of animal care. Generally speaking, actually harming animals in any way is pretty much verboten, either directly or through neglect.

If you’re just talking about images of animal cruelty, well that’s a different story. If it’s germane to the piece ( or just an issue that wouldn’t be of concern within the imaginary framework of the story ), then you’d be talking censorshipship. And censoring images for public consumption is rarely, if ever, a good idea.

  • Tamerlane

So when it looks like an actor has been shot, and the actor screams in agony, he really is in pain?

Human actors fake being hurt because (a) it’s part of the story, and (b) they get paid for it.

Animal actors fake being hurt because (a) it’s part of the story, and (b) they get paid for it. Not as much as the human, but hey.

I don’t see the problem here.

That, my friend, is pun cruelty of the highest order (and a good one, I was actually groaning in pain :slight_smile: ). There ought to be a society for that.

The scary thing is that I wasn’t even intending for the pun! I’m lousy at 'em…

G. Nome, you should carefully read this. It should put your fears to rest.

FAQs at the American Humane Association’s Film and TV Unit

Besides, animal actors usually have a great life. The hours they work are strictly monitored, like children, and they have safe, loving homes and plenty of attention and food. When they retire, they are cared for until they die.

Sure, back in the day, horse would be tripped with wires. But that stuff does not happen anymore.

I agree that seeing an animal in a simulated state of distress can be very upsetting. But it’s you that’s hurt, not the animal. After an intense scene, the cow/bear/horse/dog gets affection, praise and a treat.

An interesting thing about Oh Brother is how much more strongly people reacted to the violence against animals than to the violence against humans. We’ve become so desensitized to the sight of people geting shot, maimed, and carved up that it takes a cow or a frog for us to empathize.