By Jennifer O'Connor
Domestication certainly hasn't benefited horses, as they've long been abused as beasts of burden and in other ways—as shown by our current battle to stop their export and slaughterfor meat. But the new movie War Horse makes a strong case that the bond between humans and horses transcends exploitation. Based on the book of the same name by Michael Morpurgo, War Horse follows the journey of a horse named Joey from birth to a World War I battlefield.
Unlike those involved in the making of We Bought a Zoo, the producers of War Horse took PETA's concerns about the use of animals on the set seriously and were responsive, open, and proactive. Director Steven Spielberg and producer Kathleen Kennedy—both horse lovers—took care to ensure that the horses used in the production of the film were not harmed.
(Spoiler alert: If you don't want to know how it was done, stop reading here.)
Computer-generated imagery was used in the most dangerous-looking scenes, a special track was built to help with the horses' footing, and breakaway ropes prevented tripping. In addition, the dramatic barbed wire scene was created using an elaborate system involving a harness, rubber "barbed wire," an animatronic horse, and a healthy dose of Hollywood magic. As one producer told PETA, "Great credit goes to the art department for making it look dangerous when it wasn't; everything was built to accommodate the horses."
War Horse's strong and moving anti-cruelty message is also sure to resonate with moviegoers and help them empathize with horses' plight. Hopefully, many will think long and hard before they patronize the modern-day horse "battlegrounds" created by the racing, rodeo, andcarriage industries. The movie may also prompt people to call their representatives to support the bill to ban American horses from being slaughtered in the U.S. and abroad.