Getting a wild animal to act against its nature is a long process which involves keeping the animal in a constant state of submission to its trainer.
There are many accounts from ex-trainers (Sarah Baeckler, Richard O’Barry, Pat Derby, among others) that confirm the use of violent methods, such as beating, electric shock, punishment collars, sprays, etc. As well as this, in most cases, they manipulate the animals through food deprivation. This way the hungry animal acts in exchange for food, limiting the number of takes that can be filmed with the animal until its hunger has been satisfied.
During training a word is often associated with an act of violence. Later, in the studio, when the handler gives the order using this word, the animal reacts for fear of the physical punishment without the need to show any aggression towards the animal in public. As the animal grows and the tricks become more complicated, the techniques of control in training become more and more aggressive.
One frequently used method is called two by four, this involves beating the animals suddenly, at any time and for no apparent reason, even when they are in their accommodation. Because they don’t know when they are going to be hit they stay alert and submissive when people are present. This fear can also be seen in an animal that is always attentive to its trainer, something the handlers like to talk about as “a special relationship”.
Additionally, in order for the trainers to “win over the animals”, it is common practice to separate them from their mothers from an early age. They are bottle fed so that the young animal can “bond” with its owner instead of its biological mother and that way its obedience is obtained. Even so, when these animals reach sexual maturity they usually become aggressive even to the people who have looked after them since they were young.
In 2012 Tato Peralta, from the company “Fauna y Acción”, stated in the article “A chimpanzee may earn up to 15,000 per day of filming” that “wild animals are even more unpredictable. A golden eagle, which has amazing strength in its talons, got mad at its handler and when we were making it fly, he hid in his car. Once the bird was airborne, he got out of the car thinking the coast was clear. But the bird of prey suddenly turned, swooped down and stuck its talons into him”. Peralta also said, “Wild animals, even those born in captivity, have strong natural instincts and, especially in frustrating and stressful situations, they are unpredictable. That, together with their size and strength, makes it very dangerous to interact with them. There are numerous cases of animals attacking people, also their carers. If a wolf wants to test you, because they are very hierarchical, it may mark you with its teeth, on your thigh for example. If you step back, then it may bite you more seriously".
Various handlers who boasted a “unique and special” relationship with their animals have been seriously wounded or even killed, attacked by those animals which they had taken care of since they were young. This goes to show the serious risks that this industry also holds for humans. Among others, we remember the case of Rocky, a brown bear that was the star of several American movies. In 2008 it killed its trainer Stephen Miller with a bite to the neck in the installations of “Predators in Action” in East LA. In 2011 Raimon Martinez, from the animal rental company “Bicharracas” stated in the El Periódico article I have crossed the line that separates life from death that “you can never lower your guard, because even the most well-behaved animal can challenge you. A crocodile you have raise from birth can go from loving you to eating you in a moment. There are no good or bad animals, just that their instinct is to hunt and kill. Can the instinct of a wild animal be educated? No, it can’t. It can be controlled through training but when you put it in a situation in which its instinct cancels out the training somebody may be seriously injured”.
Training starts with teaching the young not to have instincts or normal behaviour in their natural repertoire, even when playing. This includes biting, vocalising or cleaning themselves.
It must also be pointed out that the trainers who say they train “positively” often use or subcontract animals coming from circuses or which have previously been trained with violent methods. This is the case with elephants, which, in order to work with humankind, have to go through a process of extremely violent “domestication” which consists of denying them movement, rest and food for days, and subjecting them to brutal physical and psychological abuse with the aim of making them afraid of humans.
We should also remember that many animals used in these types of productions have been maimed (filing down their fangs, as is the case for chimpanzees, or removing their claws, as is the case for the big cats) or that it is sometimes necessary to sedate them in order to film the most complicated scenes.
At the state level
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