Editors' Choice

Animal Safety In Hollywood Questioned After Video Released

Steve Porter / January 23, 2017

Back in 2015, we saw a dentist from Rhode Island named Walter Palmer become of the most despised men on the planet. Palmer came under scrutiny when it came to light that he had gone on a paid hunt where used a bow and arrow to wound a Southwest African lion named Cecil. Palmer then proceeded to track and kill the lion with a rifle.



Cecil, who lived in the Hwange National Park in Matabeleland North Zimbabwe was the park’s main attraction and at the time of his death was even being tracked and studied by Oxford University. This was not Palmers first hunting excursion, images that can be found online show him proudly posing with other animals like rhinos, lions, cheetahs, buffalo, and wild boars. The hunt was technically legal, but raised awareness to the growing trend of controlled trophy hunting and the ethics surrounding the practice.


Image Source: Huffingtonpost


In 2016, the world collectively weeped for another slain animal, but this time it took place at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. The date was May 28th, a 3-year old boy named Isaiah Greg was at the zoo with his parents when the unthinkable happened. Witnesses stated hearing the boy talking about “wanting to go into the enclosure.” He then slipped away from his parents, scaled a 3-ft tall fence, crawled through 4ft of shrubs and then fell 15 feet into the gorilla habitat. Zoo staff were able to get two of the three gorillas (female) back inside and away from the boy, but one curious 17-year old male Western Lowland gorilla named Harambe decided to investigate.



Video was posted online that showed the 440-pound primate dragging the child through the water, standing him up and playing with his clothing. Harambe carried Isaiah up a ladder out of the moat and ultimately took him to the edge of the enclosure where he sat with the child near a door.


Image Source: ThePeak


Zoo workers feared for the boy’s life and made the decision to shoot and kill Harambe. They chose to shoot rather than tranquilize him because they feared that in his already increasingly agitated state that he might become more dangerous to the boy. This incident raised concerns about the ethics of keeping primates and other animals in captivity along with questioning the systems that should be in place to ensure people, especially children, can’t get that close to animals. Come on seriously, a 3ft fence… WTF.



We’re not even a full 30 days into the new year and 2017 is already looking like a stinker. So far we’ve lost the orca, Tilikum, who was the focal point of the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which looked at the controversial treatment of killer whales living in captivity and the dangers such actions pose to both the animals and humans alike.



Over the course of his life, the orca was involved in the deaths of three people including two trainers. A 21-year old marine biology student named Keltie Byrne was killed on February 20th, 1991, and the second, 40 year-old Dawn Brancheau, was killed on February 24th, 2010. Lastly, a man named Daniel P. Dukes, who stripped down to his birthday suit after the park was closed, snuck into Tilikum’s tank where he was injured by the whale and eventually drowned.


Image Source: ibtimes


Tilikum fathered 21 offspring, 11 of which are still alive today. He passed away on January 6th, 2017, after a lengthy fight against a lung infection caused by bacterial pneumonia. Tilikum was 35 at the time of his death, but in the wild, male orcas can live upwards of 70-years old. It’s been proven time and time again that intelligence and thought can be found in all animals and we really need to ask ourselves – how humane is it to treat these living, thinking, sentient beings the way that we do for the purpose of entertainment? We’ll concede that there is an element of education involved, but hey, that’s where Animal Planet comes into play. Wanna get up close? Go on a safari. Can’t afford one, well guess what? Too bad.


Image Source: Latimes

Then, on the 14th of January, 2017, Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that after more than 145 years of operation, they would be closing their doors for good citing a heavy decline in ticket sales, no doubt due to the shift in consciousness surrounding the imprisonment of animals for people’s enjoyment.



And now lastly, the newest piece of troubling news related to the treatment of animals used for entertainment, comes to us from Hollywood. It’s nothing new, whether it’s horses breaking legs and then being euthanized for spaghetti westerns, or a bunch of golden retriever puppies dying on the set of Air Bud because they weren’t properly vaccinated, or how about the time Disney hurled a bunch of lemmings off of a cliff for a film. Things got better as stricter rules were put into place to ensure that animals were treated better in Hollywood.



Look at The Shawshank Redemption for example. Brooks Hatlen had a pet crow in the film and fed it maggots. Not only did the film’s animal wrangler ensure that the bird was properly treated, they went as far as making sure the maggots were as well. Despite the extensive standards, rules, and regulations put in place to ensure the safety of animals on film sets, it seems us humans still find a way to screw things up.



On January 18th, TMZ released a video showing a terrified German shepherd named Hercules being forced into turbulent waters on the set of the soon to be released film A Dog’s Purpose. The second half of the video shows the dog getting sucked under water and the crew jumping into action. The Internet did what it does best and the video has since exploded with calls for the boycott of the film. PETA and scores of angry animal lovers made an impression and on January 20th universal announced that they had canceled the US premier and Canadian preview of the film. It does however, look like it’s still on track to be released publically on January 27th. 



Do we really need to use real animals for the dangerous stuff? Look at the recent remake of the classic The Jungle Book or the Life of PI – all CGI animals there, but did the story or visual aspects suffer? No, not at all. So ask yourself the next time you watch a film, or go to the zoo, circus, or sea world. Is it really worth it?