Filming with animals for advertising, cinema, music videos or TV doesn’t begin and end in the studio. Filming wild animals involves first getting hold of them, training them, transporting them and caring for them. The real problem area is often invisible at first sight. Using wild animals in the filming of commercials or movies has serious physical and psychological consequences for the fauna involved.
Animal casting agencies have to find animals which come from other companies whose business is the rearing and selling of animals for this end, as well as zoos, circuses and private individuals. Some of these animals, particularly elephants, are captured from the wild. In 2016 the two elephants used in the audiovisual sector in Spain, Dumba and Babaty, were caught in their natural habitat. Some of the companies which supply animals to the audiovisual sector in Spain even proclaim themselves to be “rescue centres” to justify their business (despite not having the correct authorisation or doing the work of a sanctuary). They make both the public and the industry believe that the animals used in audiovisual productions are benefiting from the deal.
The conditions in which these animals live, in cages or small enclosures usually without any environmental enrichment, are insufficient for satisfying their most basic needs for physical and social wellbeing, and makes it impossible for them to carry out their natural behaviour. The training to which these animals are subjected so that they can act is usually based on the control of hunger, particularly when they are forced to do things which are inappropriate to their species. Physical violence is also used, as has been confirmed by several ex-trainers (Pat Derby and Ric O’Barry, among others).
Dumba and Babaty, the 2 elephants used in audiovisual productions in Spain were taken from the wild.
The above, along with the stress generated by acting in an artificial environment and being moved about, may irritate and scare the animals, possibly causing them to attack people or other animals. Due to the difficulty of totally safe interaction with wild animals, the animals are maimed. For example, big cats have their claws removed and primates have their fangs cut off. The animals are sedated and, furthermore, chains, enclosures and instruments of torture are used. An example of this is when bullhooks are used to keep elephants in line.
When the animals grow up and they become too big, their handling gets even more complicated and dangerous and the animal rental companies end up getting rid of them, selling them on to circuses, zoos, private collectors or shutting them up in a cage for the rest of their lives.
According to experts the use of endangered species like tigers, elephants and chimpanzees has several downsides. It has a negative impact on the conservation of these animals, giving the general public a distorted image of their condition. It also promotes legal and illegal traffic of endangered species, which endangers them further.
As has been demonstrated by successful productions like “The origin of the Planet of the Apes” (2011), “Noah” (2014) or “The Legend of Tarzan” (2016) there are worthy technological alternatives to the use of real animals in cinema or advertising. Animatronics, VFX and 3D offer spectacular effects and eliminate many problem areas (legal, safety, etc.) that working with wild animals involves.
At the state level
Among the successful initiatives we highlight:
Animals in Film and TV (PETA)