Usually, when People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) shows up to protest a movie, the filmmakers and animal trainers politely smile and nod, aware that there is nothing they can say or do to satisfy the animal rights crusaders.
On Monday night, members of the group stood outside Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre to protest the new Nicholas Sparks-Scott Eastwood bull-riding movie The Longest Ride. Protesters carried signs reading, “The Real Tragedy: Rodeos Kill Animals,” and “The Cruelest Ride: Electric Prods, Spurs, and Bucking Straps,” according to photos of the event provided by theWrap.
“The rodeo is a disgusting show in which pathetic people bully terrified animals who are simply trying to escape their abusers,” PETA said in a statement Monday morning.
But this time, the film’s production company, 20th Century Fox, the Professional Bull Riders Organization (PBR) and lead actor Scott Eastwood all responded directly to the protests.
“These bulls are treated like rock stars and we don’t do anything to mistreat them in any way,” PBR CEO Jim Haworth told theWrap. “Any time you give exposure to our great athletes, then PETA is going to get involved. I am just surprised by how misinformed they are.”
Haworth also called the protesters’ signs “not accurate.”
“We do not do anything to probe or prod the bulls, we have rules against that,” he continued to theWrap. “These bulls are very important to us.”
In an unusual move, a representative from 20th Century Fox also struck back at the criticism, saying that for an animal rights organization, PETA seems not to understand the “big distinction” between rodeos and professional bull-riding events. The company defended PBR, saying it had a great track record on animal welfare, and that “bucking” bulls are not prodded, but rather genetically predisposed to perform.
Actor Scott Eastwood said he didn’t know what all the fuss was about.
“I’m a little confused on why they’re here,” Eastwood told USA Today while glancing over at the protesters. “We had the Humane Society the whole time we were filming, and we made sure no animals go hurt.”
The Longest Ride, based on the bestselling novel by Nicholas Sparks, hits theaters this Friday. The film stars Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, Alan Alda and Jack Huston.