More Evidence of Animal Abuse on Set of "Water for Elephants"


LOS ANGELES, CA -- Wildlife vet describes training at elephant suppliers for "Water for Elephants": “Nothing rivals the cruelty I have witnessed over the last few days.”

Today Animal Defenders International release more shocking footage from Have Trunk Will Travel, where the elephant Tai used in the movies Water for Elephants, Zookeeper and Britney Spears’ circus video, was trained.

The first footage ADI released earlier this week, related specifically to what was shown in Water for Elephants. It showed how Tai was taught to perform tricks with electric shocks and bull hooks and not with love and marshmallows.

In response to the latest claims by Have Trunk Will Travel, ADI has released more footage, which shows more of a view of the day to day control of the elephants; this is equally violent:

-- Have Trunk Will Travel boss Kari Johnson viciously striking an elephant
-- A baby elephant being hit over the head and dragged by the trunk
-- Elephants being hit and jabbed with bull hooks
-- Elephants chained by the legs barely able to move (the elephants were being chained from 6.30pm to 6.30am, 12 hours a day)

The Water for Elephants film-makers and its stars, Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson, had issued statements about the kindness with which Tai was trained, however ADI believes they were duped.

Jan Creamer, President, Animal Defenders International:“We appreciate that the stars and makers of Water for Elephants were probably duped about the way the elephants were trained. But we think everyone will be reassured when they issue a forthright condemnation of the training methods and make a commitment not to use performing animals again.”

The suffering at Have Trunk Will Travel is receiving universal condemnation around the world from vets, elephant experts, zoo industry insiders, and the public.

Dr Mel Richardson, captive wildlife vet:“As a veterinarian with 40 years of expertise caring for elephants and other captive wildlife, I can assure you these videos depict animal cruelty and unnecessary suffering. These people are tormenting their elephants. The aggressiveness and vengeance with which the handlers beat and punish the elephants is unconscionable. There appears to be no purpose other than to torment the elephants. As a veterinarian in 1982-84, I worked for an animal dealer who imported 44 baby African elephants to train for the performing animal industry. I have witnessed and treated the wounds of elephants traumatized by severe training techniques. And nothing rivals the cruelty I have witnessed over the last few days from the videos from Have Trunk Will Travel.”

Dr. Joyce Poole, world renown elephant biologist, Co-Director of Elephant Voices, lead author of The Elephant Charter, world-renowned elephant biologist, with 40 years studying elephants:"What we see is systematic abuse of fearful and terrorized elephants. The brutality and aggressive attitude demonstrated by the handlers leaves no doubt in my mind about the trauma that has been inflicted on these poor elephants. The roars of pain and squeaks of alarm heard in the footage all confirm the same - elephants forced with violence to do painful tricks that are unnatural and harmful to them."

Pat Derby former TV and movie animal trainer and founder of the Performing Animal Welfare Society, Ark2000 elephant sanctuary:“The actions I viewed on this video could only be characterized as needless suffering and unnecessary cruelty. In the early 70s, when I was working with animals on film sets I hated the way elephants were trained. Elephants bring out a fury in many men as no other creature does, a rage to dominate and to hurt.

“Although Have Trunk Will Travel states that their elephants are trained with food reward and positive reinforcement, no treats are visible anywhere in this video, and the bull hooks and electricity are used aggressively and angrily."

“The elephant actor in Water For Elephants, and the other elephants at Have Trunk Will Travel, have paid a high price for a few mediocre moments of entertainment. If you care about elephants, skip this movie.”

Peter Stroud, former curator of elephants at Melbourne Zoo, has said there was little doubt Tai has been subjected to cruel training methods at some point:

’’Getting an elephant to do what it’s told really requires the elephant to be dominated. If you want to see an elephant behaving in the way this elephant probably does in this movie, where it’s in and around people and performing circus tricks, it’s a near certainty that it’s been trained using punishment, using pain, using very traditional methods that have been with us for a long time but are not at all elephant friendly. They’re basically cruel.’’

Have Trunk Will Travel have not denied the treatment of the elephants, instead claiming “The video shows heavily edited and very short snippets”, and that they: “ …stand by our care and training methods.”

Today, ADI asks the public to judge for themselves.

Jan Creamer: “Full length clips of the footage were made available to the media as soon as we released them. Today we are posting these and the new clips online so that anyone can see it. You can see what happens before and after the elephants get hit or electric shocked, but they still get hit or electric shocked.”

“We released the video evidence because of very misleading claims being spread around the world during the launch of Water for Elephants. Claims which went well beyond what had occurred on set and even claimed kindness during the entirety of their training.”

(editor's note: Here is a link that includes the video. Here is a link to an earlier Opposing Views story.)


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