PETA is furious over the use of a wild elephant in the science fiction drama series, Westworld, seen on M-Net (DStv 101) in South Africa and across Africa, and is slamming HBO in America as it also references the tragic incident in which the South African cinematographer Carlos Carvalho was killed last week by a wild giraffe on the set of a game lodge.
"We're urging HBO to commit to not using any wild animals in future episodes or other series," the animal rights organisation says in response to the 3rd episode of the second season of Westworld that was just broadcast.
The Westworld episode, entitled "Virtu e Fortuna" revealed a new adjacent park called The Raj, with a British colonial India setting where guests ride on elephants and go on hunting safaris to kill Bengal tigers.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) says one of the elephants in the episode is Tai, elephant owned and exhibited by Have Trunk Will Travel, that has been filmed on camera being abused during training and suffering at the hands of trainers.
"In light of the egregious cruelty and human health risks as well as the public's growing opposition to the use of animals for entertainment - and because reports say that there are still plans to use bears this season - we're urging HBO to commit to not using any wild animals in future episodes or other series," says Lauren Thomasson, PETA manager of animals in film and television, in an open letter addressed to Casey Bloys, HBO programming president.
"Considering the realistic and cruelty-free CGI technology that exists today, all wild animals in HBO series should be computer-generated, just the way the tiger was so beautifully done in last night's episode."
Here is PETA's open letter in full:
"Dear Mr. Bloys,
I'm writing to you today on behalf of PETA and our more than 6.5 million members and supporters worldwide with concerns over the use of live animals on Westworld - especially wild animals, such as the elephants who appeared in last night's episode.
In light of the egregious cruelty and human health risks as well as the public's growing opposition to the use of animals for entertainment - and because reports say that there are still plans to use bears this season - we're urging HBO to commit to not using any wild animals in future episodes or other series."
All elephants used for TV and film are trained through domination and painful techniques, including the use of sharp metal bullhooks and electric prods. Many animals develop abnormal behaviour and become unhealthy, depressed, or aggressive because of the mistreatment that they experience. We've identified one of the elephants on the show as Tai, who's owned and exhibited by the notorious outfit Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT).
This eyewitness video footage shows trainers at HTWT abusing elephants, including Tai, during training. The cruel methods that these trainers use are standard practices in the elephant-training industry. Kari Johnson, co-owner of HTWT, acknowledged under oath that her company chains elephants for more than 12 hours a day. Of the four elephants born at HTWT's facility, all but one died before reaching the age of 4.
Public opposition to the use of animals for entertainment is stronger than ever - evident from the closure of Ringling Bros. circus after 146 years of exploitation and the dozens of travel companies that have pulled elephant rides from their offerings - so it comes as no surprise that we're receiving complaints from your viewers.
And since we sent information when elephants and bears were used in other series such as Silicon Valley, we're stunned that HBO would allow this.
Captive wild animals also pose a serious threat to the safety of cast and crew. Just last week, director Carlos Carvalho was killed by a giraffe on the set of a TV movie with wildlife experts present. There's no way to predict the behaviour of wild animals, and no amount of training can overcome their natural instincts.
Dangerous interactions with captive elephants have resulted in dozens of human deaths or catastrophic injuries - including broken bones, crushed pelvises, collapsed and punctured lungs, degloving injuries, head wounds, and brain injuries.
Considering the realistic and cruelty-free CGI technology that exists today, all wild animals in HBO series should be computer-generated, just the way the tiger was so beautifully done in last night's episode.
May we please hear from you right away to confirm that any plans to use live bears or other wild animals will be cancelled and that you will pledge to stop using and exploiting wild animals? Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Manager, Animals in Film & Television
Manager, Animals in Film & Television