Sitting in a darkened movie theater, watching the credits roll at the end of a movie, you’ve probably noticed the American Humane Association statement near the very end that reads, “No animal was harmed during the making of this movie.”
That’s a relief. In the midst of the madness of movie making, thank goodness someone’s keeping an eye on the animals, right?
Wrong. According to a bombshell of an investigative report by The Hollywood Reporter, that credit these days is rather meaningless. According to some of its own employees, the AHA is now reportedly much too “buddy buddy” with the industry it’s supposed to be overseeing.
The result, says reporter Gary Baum, is that AHA isn’t doing its job anymore. The AHA is supposed to be the organization that monitors animal treatment in movie and television productions. It has been doing that job since 1939, when movie makers on the set of Jesse James forced a horse to plunge off a cliff to its death, all in the name of movie realism.
These days, AHA reportedly distorts the ratings it gives to films, refuses to publicly acknowledge incidents harming animals, downplays a host of accidents and incidents, and often won’t properly investigate reports of problems.
Six understandably anonymous AHA employees came forward to talk with The Hollywood Reporter out of concern for entertainment industry animal welfare. Baum reports that these employees have “lost hope in the potential for meaningful reform unless outside pressure is brought to bear.”
After conducting these interviews and reviewing a raft of e-mails, incident logs, audit reports and meeting minutes, Baum appears to have substantiated a real, very distressing problem.
Yes, Animals Were Harmed While Making Your Favorite Movies
Here’s just a sampling of animal accidents and incidents that occurred in the making of movies and television shows in the recent past:
Despite these terrible and often avoidable occurrences, many of these movies and shows received the coveted “no animal was harmed” credit from the AHA. How is this possible? The employees who were willing to talk say they know why it happens. The AHA’s leadership is starstruck.
What the Anonymous AHA Staffers Reported
“The general issue at play is that the AHA is funded…by the entertainment industry that it’s covering,” Baum told NPR. “So you have a situation where the industry is bankrolling its regulator.” Remember that the AHA isn’t a governmental entity. It’s accountable only to the entertainment industry, not to the public.
“The AHA does not explain why the films get the ratings they do to hide the fact that they do not give them accurately across the board and that special relationships may be taken into account,” one AHA employee told Baum. “Management pressures postproduction to give good reviews. Even [for] relationships that aren’t special yet [but] might be in the future, and they don’t want to rock the boat.”
“[M]y sources have told me there’s a desire to bend over backwards whenever possible to look at any situation from the industry’s point of view,” Baum told NPR, “to look at incidents as unpreventable accidents, to assign monitors and apply their guidelines in sometimes lax ways; to basically view themselves, the AHA, as a collaborator rather than an independent force, first and foremost, advocating for animal welfare.”
Another employee says: ”Reps are only ‘good’ if they’re not making any waves. Reps who get complaints from a trainer are pulled from a set. The ones who stand up for the animals’ welfare are labeled as troublemakers.”
Baum’s full investigative report is disturbing but necessary reading for anyone concerned about animal welfare issues.
You might be surprised to learn that in deciding whether to award a movie or television show the “no animals were harmed” credit, the AHA does not consider incidents that hurt or endanger animals when filming is on hiatus, when the harm is not “intentional,” or if harm occurs in any off-camera context.
That’s a jarringly loose form of animal protection, AHA. How about a little less rubbing elbows with the Hollywood hoi polloi and a little more looking out for the animals you’re there to protect?
Photo credit for all images: Thinkstock
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