I have been researching how animals are protected in the media for one of my classes and not surprisingly I haven’t found much. I did however, find an interesting article from the independent Hollywood Reporter on how the American Humane Association, which is supposed to protect animals working in the film industry, has recently given in to the large media corporations that they set out to protect the animals from, and now frequently turns a blind eye to blatant animal violations.
The story the public is generally told is that the process of protecting animal actors begins with the SAG. The guild collaborates with filmmakers to plan the safest ways to shoot animal scenes that may put animals in harms way. After the scripts are approved, the AHA is asked to join the set of production to oversee the treatment of the animals and make sure that the film is legal and safe. If the AHA is satisfied with the care and consideration provided for the animals, a “NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED” disclaimer is granted to the production.
However, in recent years the AHA has lost credibility thanks to reports from PETA and The Hollywood Reporter. The AHA’s jurisdiction in the use of animals is broad but far from complete. American productions working outside of the SGA are not covered by the AHA, and are charged $80 per hour for the AHA’s disclaimer. This leads 50 percent of all animal movies unregulated by the AHA according to Film & TV Unit senior adviser Karen Rosa. The AHA is also not large enough to keep up with the high demand for animal actors and has become haphazard in their regulations. “Sometimes the AHA doesn’t have enough safety representatives to handle requested coverage, resulting in brief visits by monitors, or even none at all.” The AHA’s conflicting values also make them ineffective in protecting animal actors. The big-budget film producers are often accused of paying off the AHA so that they act more as a public relations company than an animal-rights activist group.
Most recently the AHA has been called into question in their participation on the film The Hobbit. Under their watch, 27 animals reportedly perished, including sheep and goats that died from dehydration and exhaustion or from drowning in water-filled gullies (PETA). Whistle-blowers in the AHA informed PETA of the inhumane conditions placed upon these animals until the public generated enough frustration to urge further investigation. The AHA members involved in the film were accused of covering up the deaths of these animals because of the extra funds provided by the film’s producers. The film still received a “NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED” credit at the end of their movie.
I just thought it was interesting that not only can media news outlets fall under the spell of money, but also a national service devoted to protecting animals. Funny how that works.