The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have accused the HBO of mistreating animals after footage emerged of elephants being abused while being trained to perform the kinds of tricks seen on the premium network’s popular sci-fi series Westworld.
In an open letter to HBO President of Programming Casey Bloys, PETA’s Manager of Animals in Film and Television Lauren Thomasson urged the cabler to use ever-developing CGI technology to shoot scenes involving animals.
“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.”
“Considering the realistic and cruelty-free CGI technology that exists today, all wild animals in HBO series should be computer-generated,” the letter continued.
The complaint came after video footage appeared to show that one of the elephants from Westworld’s latest episode had suffered intense physical abuse during its training.
In a statement, HBO denied allegations that their animals had been mistreated:
All of the animals featured on HBO series are treated with the utmost care and respect for their health, safety and well-being. A certified animal safety representative from American Humane was present at all times during any animal action on the set of Westworld. The AHA has confirmed that the animals were well-treated, and the production received the designation of “No Animals Were Harmed.”
We are reviewing the circumstances related to archival training footage which included one of the elephants that appeared in the series. Of course, none of this video was shot during the production and does not in any way reflect practices on our sets.
It is not the first time that PETA has attacked HBO for their use of mistreated animals. In 2016, the organization blasted the portrayal of so-called “horse porn” during an episode of HBO’s Silicon Valley, describing the practice as a form of “arranged rape.”
In 2012, the network was also forced to cancel its horse racing drama Luck amid pressure from PETA following numerous horse fatalities during its production.