Thursday, January 19, 2017

Animal Treatment on Film

The internet has been abuzz this week since the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus announced it's closing after 146 years.

I am one of the people who is relieved to hear this. I feel that this type of entertainment, that relies on animals being kept out their natural habitats and forced to perform acts that are unnatural for them, under the duress of loud noises and bright lights is cruel. It's also incredibly outdated. We have so many other ways to entertain ourselves now that there's no need for circuses like this. If people want to perform, like aerial gymnasts or stunt drivers or whatever, that's fine. That's their choice. But I hope that the majority of society has evolved enough that by now we don't need to get our jollies the same ways we used to.

There's a small amusement park/zoo in the town where I work, and even though all the school staff members get free tickets there every spring, I have refused to go the past couple of years. I have talked to people who worked there, one who worked specifically in the 'zoo' part, and what I heard made me very uneasy. I don't know if the place has ever been investigated by a humane society, but I don't feel comfortable supporting it anymore.

I'm not sure I feel comfortable supporting the upcoming release of the film A Dog's Purpose either. I was really looking forward to seeing it because I loved the book, but recently a video surfaced that shows a German Shepherd being forced into the water for filming. PETA is calling for a boycott of the movie while of course the film's producers are insisting that no animals were harmed or mistreated during the production. 

My son has been watching the movie Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey lately, and one day I decided to research how that film fared in terms of animal treatment. I couldn't find any sources that gave evidence of mistreatment, and the Humane Hollywood organization lauded the the filmmakers for using a variety of camera angles, multiple sequences that were spliced together and faux animals to give the effect of the many action segments.

This was a great relief to me because now I can continue to enjoy this movie. I haven't been able to watch Milo and Otis for years, because there are multiple allegations of animal cruelty and deaths in connection with that movie, which was filmed in Japan and was not supervised by any American humane societies, although it's claimed that a Japanese organization was on location.

I'm kind of a nerd when it comes to film history, but I must acknowledge that it's closely tied to animal mistreatment and cruelty as a form of entertainment, the evidence being Thomas Edison's 1903 film "Electrocuting an Elephant." The elephant, which was used in attractions on Coney Island, was sentenced to death after it had become aggressive and attacking. The elephant was originally slated to be hanged (I'm not even sure how that would work) but Edison suggested it's be more humane to electrocute it. Obviously Edison's intentions were to promote his high-voltage current, but by filming the elephant's demise, and then making the film available for nickelodeon viewings and gaining a profit from the creature's demise, this terrible tradition was established. I won't post the video here since it's very disturbing to watch, but if anyone is inclined it's easily found online.

Although the German Shepherd featured in A Dog's Purpose is alive and said to be doing well now, it's regrettable, to say the least, to think that animal treatment in film might still be an issue. We know that dog fighting is cruel. We know that electrocuting an animal is cruel. We know that throwing lemmings off a cliff for the sake of making a 'documentary' is cruel (I'm looking at you, Disney). But isn't causing an animal incredible stress (even if it's not mortal danger) for the sake of our own entertainment also cruel?

The Humane Society has suspended the employee who was on set that day, and there is an investigation underway. It's disappointing in so many ways.

1 comment:

  1. While I appreciate your post, I don't share quite the same opinion. I do agree that there things that were/are not okay and inhumane. On the same hand there are many people who say what I do, train and ride horses is inhumane. Even further there are people who think owning any animal is inhumane. Birds are kept in cages, hamsters, Guinea pigs, ferrets all unnatural for them to be kept indoors feed strange pellets for food, drinking out of whacky water bottles. Dogs are taught to do funny things like shake hands and retrieve things, therapy dogs as wonderful as they are have to go through rigorous training to ignore instinctual behavior. I view the circus and the zoo as 3 fold; entertainment, education and exposure. Everywhere there will be people who do things the wrong way but there are people who do it the right way. In the horse industry there are bad trainers whither horrible methods of getting the horse to do what the want, then there are many trainers that use partnership. Some animals get hurt in the wild and will be fixed but won't have a chance for survival back in the wild so they end up needing people for how ever long they will live, they can go to sanctuaries, or have can possibly start a job as an animal ambassador. They go out and teach young people about natural habitats being destroyed and help stir empathy for their species or strike the match that ignites a passion for learning about animals. I'm not condoning old and even present ways that some animals are kept or treated but maybe it's a how can we improve, how can we get the same result with not all the bad things are just saying see ya circus or even further any live animal show. There are so many kids that are stuck in their phones and computers, they are forgetting how to live. There has to be a better compromise, than see you later circus. Ps. Please excuse the grammatical nightmare and broken thought processes