|Water For Elephants|
Seems like a promising message at the beginning of modern films, right?
The problem is that this message only applies to when the animals are on the set. It doesn't monitor how they are housed or treated beforehand. This is when the majority of abuse happens.
Not only that, the American Humane Association doesn't have the proper authority to enforce, or deal with problems that come up.
Pat Derby was an animal trainer that worked in many films, including the ever-popular Lassie and Flipper. I say "was" because she recently, and tragically-especially for the animals-passed.
She became well-versed on how animals are handled in the entertainment industry. In 1976, she wrote an autobiography titled, The Lady And Her Tiger. She became a passionate advocate for these animal actors having worked with them first-hand. In 1984, she and her companion, Ed Stewart opened a sanctuary for these performing animals in California called Performing Animals Welfare Society(PAWS). The link is also included on the Sanctuaries page.
The problems with using elephants in film are the very same problems as using them in zoos, circuses, tourism and logging. They suffer from the same training tools and methods, and from the isolation inherent in each of these systems. As I researched, I found very intimate connections between the circus, zoo, and film industries. Zoos often sell undesirable elephants to circuses, and vice versa.
The film, Water For Elephants, addresses circus cruelty to elephants. The sick irony is that the elephant named Tai, whom played the star of the movie, was caught on camera being beaten during training before the movie was filmed. Tai is owned and trained by an entertainment elephant company called, Have Trunk Will Travel.
Interestingly, Have Trunk Will Travel owned the father of the baby elephant, Lily, at The Oregon Zoo that was born in November 2012. Until very recently, that is. After much uproar from the animal-rights community, including Animal Defenders International, The Oregon Zoo secured ownership of both Lily and her father, Tusko, in February 2013. They purchased the two for $400,000.
The good, and promising news is that films are beginning to use computer generated images(CGI) of animals in movies, rather than animal actors. The benefits of this, is that CGI animals can do essentially anything you want, and there's no forcible treatment of the animal actors.