In a rare bit of entertainment news that’s actually worth a damn, a recent investigation delved into the American Humane Association’s prevalent “No Animals Were Harmed” stamp at the end of feature films and television. At the very least, the watchdog organization was found to be inefficient and ineffective in their monitoring responsibilities, and at worst, complicit in covering up the injuries and deaths of animal co-stars in an effort to maintain beneficial relationships with Hollywood studios. Hit the jump to read on, and to find out why the AHA’s certification isn’t worth the celluloid it’s printed on.
Kudos to THR investigative journalist Gary Baum for bringing the information on the AHA’s spurious certification claims to light. We’ve summed up a few of the talking points below, but do yourself a favor and read the entire article here:
- American Humane Association monitor Gina Johnson reportedly downplayed the near drowning of the tiger, King, during the filming of Life of Pi. Johnson was later found to be intimately involved with an executive producer on the film.
- During the filming of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, 27 animals reportedly died; the AHA resisted attempts at an investigation. Because the deaths occurred during a filming hiatus when the AHA was not monitoring, their specifically worded certification said the organization “monitored all of the significant animal action. No animals were harmed during such action.”
- The well-known AHA certification is not as ironclad or cut and dry as it appears, as it can be added to a production “on the grounds that the animals weren’t intentionally harmed or the incidents occurred while cameras weren’t rolling.”
- Although HBO’s series, Luck, was canceled due to widespread reports of inhumane treatment, other less publicized incidents of animal injuries or deaths occurred during the filming of Disney’s Eight Below, Paramount’s Failure to Launch, Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Sony’s Zookeeper, New Regency’s Marmaduke, and The Weinstein Co.’s Our Idiot Brother, to name just a few.
- “’It’s fascinating and ironic: From being the protectors of animals they’ve become complicit to animal cruelty,’ says Bob Ferber, a veteran L.A. City Attorney’s office prosecutor who founded and supervised its Animal Protection Unit until retiring in March.”
- “Employees allege, and available AHA internal evidence supports their claims, that the organization distorts its film ratings, downplays or fails to publicly acknowledge harmful incidents and sometimes doesn’t seriously pursue investigations.”
- Conflicts of interest abound within the organization, as power players in the Hollywood studio and television system occupy positions on the board of the AHA.
- “AHA’s CEO, Robin Ganzert, most recently deputy director of philanthropic services at the Pew Charitable Trusts and with no previous professional animal welfare experience, aggressively pursues potential revenue- and awareness-raising partnerships with the entertainment industry…”
- A new AHA policy includes a “fee-for-service plan”, which “will worsen the potential conflicts of interest now that productions will pay directly for the monitors that oversee them.”
- Recently, the AHA fired several animal monitors in a “restructuring,” who will “be replaced by five licensed veterinarians in states with high production rates.” Critics see this as yet another smokescreen from the organization, an attempt to oust whistle-blowers and replace them with more amenable monitors.