Wild animals in film

Wild animals around the world are exploited for films, television, or advertising. Unlike people striving for their 15 minutes of fame, animals in the film industry are not willing participants: they are torn from their mothers, exploited and abused, and cruelly confined their entire lives.

Born in captivity, wild animals such as elephants, bears, chimps, and big cats are separated from their families at such a young age they become dependent on humans for basic needs. Like animals used in circuses or other performances, these animals endure cruel training methods with bull hooks, electric prods, or whips. Trainers also withhold food and water from the animals until they do what the trainers demand of them.

Great apes used in commercials and films are deemed too aggressive and dangerous to be around people once reaching adulthood so they are “retired” from filming. Animals who can no longer be dominated by humans are cast off and many of them are sent to roadside zoos or other substandard facilities.

Films where animals have been harmed or killed include, but are not limited to: A Dog’s Purpose, Heaven’s Gate, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, The Adventures of Milo and Otis, Life of Pi, and Speed Racer. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is one of the worst offenders in recent memory when it was revealed that 27 animals died on the set of the production.

Ironically, Water For Elephants, with the plotline surrounding elephants being abused for entertainment, used real elephants who were really abused to perform on set. Like elephants used for performances worldwide, the star of Water For Elephants, Tai, was subjected to cruelty and abuse with bull hooks and electroshocks.

Thankfully, more filmmakers are opting for computer generated imagery (CGI) including in the blockbusters Dumbo, The Jungle Book, and Planet of the Apes (2011 and 2017). Companies such as Wonderful Pistachios, Yellow Tail, Geico, and Mercedes-Benz have made compassionate commercials with CGI animals including elephants, kangaroos, geckos, and tortoises.

What you can do:

If you’re a producer, director, or actor, reach out to World Animal Protection to sign our Wildlife Statement of Intent, pledging that you will never use or work with live wild animals on set. To contact, email JulieCappiello@worldanimalprotection.us.

To learn more and get involved with World Animal Protection’s Wildlife. Not Entertainers campaign, click here.