That "no animals were harmed" disclaimer that crops up at the end of movies courtesy of the American Humane Association seems straightforward enough. But an investigation by Gary Baum at the Hollywood Reporter finds that plenty of animals do, in fact, get harmed on sets—even for movies that end up with the label. In one of the more buzzed-about pieces from the story, Baum gets hold of an email from an AHA rep on the set of Life of Pi that describes how the "tiger damn near drowned," instructs the recipient to keep it quiet, and adds, "I have downplayed the f--- out of it." (Salon reprints the full email here.) There's also the chipmunk that got stepped on and killed in Failure to Launch, the dog that got repeatedly punched by its trainer in Eight Below, the nearly 30 goats and sheep that died in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and all manners of injuries and even deaths to horses over the years on a slew of films.
The examples go on and on—there's all kinds of wiggle room from the AHA, especially if the accident occurred off-camera instead of during filming or was accidental—and Baum's piece suggests that AHA has gotten too "cozy" with the industry to adequately protect animals. It includes this quote from an AHA board member defending the "no animals were harmed" disclaimer: “I think what people think [it means] is that when a horse dies in the movies, it didn’t really die,” she says. "I think that people think [the AHA's monitoring] is just when the cameras are rolling." At Slate, LV Anderson finds that tough to take: By those standards, "no one cares if you punch, step on, or starve animals as long as there’s no camera turned on nearby," she writes. "If that’s the best defense the AHA can come up with, I hope the Department of Agriculture, the governmental agency usually tasked with protecting animals from neglect and abuse, begins sending agents to Hollywood very, very soon." The AHA, meanwhile, calls the piece an inaccurate hatchet job in a statement picked up by the Sacramento Bee. Click to read the THR story in full.