This in-depth look at what really takes place behind the scenes during the creation of some of the most critically acclaimed feature films and television series is not for the faint of heart. Detailed accounts of horses suffering fatal injuries, dogs being abused and other sobering specifics about animals sustaining the brunt of the entertainment industry -- not to mention photo evidence of these and other atrocities -- are presented as evidence to show how apparently fictitious situations, at least as they appear on screen, are not always fictitious when animals are involved.
Popular films like Life of Pi, War Horse and The Hobbit, all of which feature large, beautiful animals, are included as offenders in the report, as are seemingly wholesome made-for-television movies like the Hallmark Channel's Everlasting Love and Love's Resounding Courage. All sorts of television shows and feature films are said to have involved animals being injured or dying, yet most of these have received an official seal of approval from the American Humane Association (AHA).
"Alarmingly, it turns out that audiences reassured by the organization's famous disclaimer should not necessarily assume it is true," writes Gary Baum for THR. "In fact, the AHA has awarded its 'No Animals Were Harmed' credit to films and TV shows on which animals were injured during production. It justifies this on the grounds that the animals weren't intentionally harmed or the incidents occurred while cameras weren't rolling."
HBO series Luck canceled after several thoroughbred horses dieLuck, an HBO series about horse racing, actually ended up being canceled after it was revealed that at least four horses died during filming. According to insider allegations, many of the horses used in the show were old, injured, underfed and even drugged, yet they were still forced to "act" as part of the series. THR's investigation found that, based on the evidence, the four horse deaths probably could have been prevented, yet AHA still gave the show its "No Animals Were Harmed" approval.
A spokeswoman from HBO later denied allegations that horses on the show were treated improperly. But the woman who first came forward to make the claims, Barbara Casey, the former head of production at AHA's Studio City-based Film & TV Unit, says animal safety was not a priority on the set, as it was holding up production. So in order to meet their production schedule, she says, Luck's creators simply flouted their political muscle to get the AHA to look the other way, and in the process got her fired.
Casey has since filed a lawsuit against the AHA for what she says is a pattern of "appeasement and collusion" between the organization and the entertainment industry. Luck, she says, is hardly the only occasion where animal abuse and neglect has occurred without incident -- other HBO shows, feature films and TV movies have left a trail of injured or dead animals that has been largely overlooked or ignored by the AHA, all the while receiving the "No Animals Were Harmed" demarcation.
AHA employees, internal documents corroborate claims that organization has become 'entrenched industry insider'While the AHA vehemently denies all claims of misconduct and collusion, a growing number of whistleblowers says otherwise. At least six AHA employees, all of who wished to remain anonymous for their own protection, as well as a multitude of internal AHA documents, including emails with revealing discourses about major animal incidents that took place on the set, reveal a serious lack of proper oversight with regards to animal safety.
"Once a distinctly outsider entity, which had to fight for its right to independently monitor productions in the first place, today the AHA has transformed itself into an entrenched industry insider," adds Baum.
Part of the reason why the AHA continues to get away with this, say its critics, is that the organization is notorious for manipulating statistics to make it appear as though it has a near-perfect safety rating. This, and the AHA chooses to exclude many cases of animal injury or death from its assessments, depending on where, when and how they occurred.
"If we acknowledge that something went wrong and wasn't a 'tragic, unpreventable accident,' it means we bear some responsibility," stated an AHA employee to THR about how the rating system typically works. "The AHA does not want responsibility."