Was the Star of Water for Elephants Beaten for the Movie?

Water for Elephants Tai photo

Image: Animal Defenders International

Everyone's excited about the release of Water for Elephants as a movie, and the filmmakers have all asserted that Tai, the star elephant in the film, was treated well and never abused for any part of the film's making. Using a video camera, Animal Defenders International tells a different story.The organization captured treatment of Tai during training in 2005 at Have Trunk Will Travel, a supplier of performing animals in California. Footage below.

ADI explains the claims that are being made, among them:

American Humane observed the animal action during filming and said: "We're here observing prep on Water for Elephants and so we're here to make sure that everybody knows that not only the action on set but also the prep is humanely done, all these animals have been treated fairly and humanely throughout the entire course of their training."

But the group's footage says otherwise.

Since circus tricks are not things elephants are naturally born or ready to do, the training takes some force. As Global Animal explains: "Any time you or your child see an elephant performing tricks, whether at a circus, on TV or in a movie, you can be sure that a sharp bullhook and stun guns with a million volts of electricity are being used to torture these gentle creatures into submission."

The movie's website has posted a response to the footage, with the author saying she visited the facilities and saw no abuse during her three hours there. While that seem a fair amount of time on which to base a judgement for some people, others might say that a three-hour stretch is insufficient to know what 'normal' behavior at the facility really looks like. The trainers probably don't abuse in front of visitors.

Watch the video and decide what you think for yourself.

More video evidence of movie elephant suffering... from Animal Defenders on Vimeo.

That's what ADI says the day-to-day looks like at Have Trunk Will Travel. Another video released earlier in the week had footage related specifically to what was shown in Water for Elephants.

More on animal abuse and animals in entertainment:
China Bans Animal Circuses -- All of Them
5 Disgusting and Depressing Stories of Captive Animal Abuse
"The Five Best States to be an Animal Abuser"

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