According to an in-depth and potentially game-changing expose’ in The Hollywood Reporter, the credit you see at the end of movies and television shows that reassures with “No Animals Were Harmed,” is nothing close to reliable. Corruption, cover-ups, and outright dishonesty plague an American Humane Association (AHA) that has apparently allowed itself to be co-opted by a Hollywood that is much more concerned with getting it on film than protecting innocent animals.
THR’s reporting is filled with report after report of individual animal abuse and horrifying negligence. Dead horses (HBO’s Luck, Spielberg’s War Horse), punched dogs (Disney’s Eight Below), squashed chipmunks (Paramount’s Failure to Launch), exploded fish (Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean), etc. Most damning, though, are the statistics surrounding enforcement. Because there doesn’t seem to be any.
In California, AHA monitors are licensed law enforcement officials. If they witness any kind of animal abuse or negligence, this means they have the power to make arrests or issue citations. According to THR, not a single citation has been issued in over thirty years. Not one over 35,000 productions.
The conflicts of interest between Hollywood and the regulators charged with looking out for the welfare of animals involved in film and television production is literally impossible to believe:
Charges of improper coziness between the AHA and the entertainment business have been raised before. The arrangement by which the Film & TV Unit’s budget has been mostly financed — through what is currently a $2.4 million grant administered by two trade groups, the recently merged SAG-AFTRA actors’ union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers via its shared Industry Advancement and Cooperative Fund — long has been criticized for the inherent conflict of interest present in Hollywood bankrolling its regulator. (The IACF is endowed as part of the producers’ obligation to the actors’ union.)
This unique compact, in which a nonprofit has taken on the role of a regulator of industry in lieu of more traditional, government oversight — and therefore is not subject to public disclosure laws, allowing its work to mostly remain shrouded in secrecy — means the AHA is accountable only to Hollywood itself.
According to THR’s sources (current and former AHA employees; leaked documents and emails), this coziness has resulted in more than just looking the other way; cover ups are standing operating procedure and one AHA official alleges she was fired for attempting to protect animals from mistreatment on the set of the HBO series Luck.
Naturally, the AHA disputes almost all of this, but what they do not dispute is that the “No Animals Were Harmed” disclaimer is awarded to films where animals were in fact harmed. What the disclaimer really means, according to the AHA, is that no animals were “intentionally hammed” or injured while cameras were rolling.
For example, although horses were repeatedly injured during filming of Disney’s “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,” (14 on a single day!), the film still received the “No Animals Were Harmed” disclaimer.
In other words, the “No Animals Were Harmed” credit is the AHA’s version of “If you like your insurance you can keep your insurance.”
There is bread and then there are circuses. I eat meat and I shoot chipmunks that threaten to chew the lining off my basement that protects it from flooding. But I am also an animal lover who cannot fathom putting an innocent animal at any kind of risk just to produce a piece of entertainment.
There is no question that injuries will happen in any workplace environment. Perfection is impossible and no one is asking anyone to achieve it. But there is also no excuse for not creating an environment on a film or television set that isn’t every bit as safe for animals as it is for people. If there is a place in the world for an animal-rights fanatic, it is on a film set. But just like most everything that is touched by fame and money, the AHA seems to have forgotten the purity of a noble and righteous mission.
And it goes without saying that Hollywood has once again been caught red-handed in its own cesspool of left-wing hypocrisy. Whether it is the environment, taxes, or its treatment of women and animals — Hollywood behaves as a villain even as they lecture the rest of us.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC