Animals Were Harmed – the Suffering of Animals Who Entertain Us

Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF Executive Director on January 3, 2014

The entertainment industry makes a lot of money displaying animals for our amusement. That’s why animals appear regularly in movies, commercials, amusement parks, even remote truck stops or pitiful roadside zoos. The dirty secret is that animals are often abused to “teach” them to perform and most spend their lives in isolation between “performances” as illustrated so clearly in the movie Blackfish. This is why ALDF consistently takes to the courts to fight the hidden cruelties so common in the entertainment industry, like our case to free Ben the bear last year from a life of misery at “Jambbas Ranch,” a roadside zoo in North Carolina. We visited Ben and other animals at the PAWS sanctuary just last month (photos at the end of this post).


Rescued elephant at Performing Animal Welfare Society on December 2013, San Andreas, California. (Ian Elwood)

In Hollywood, because we love them, animals can mean big profits. Audiences generally don’t realize what animals go through to become “performers.” Recently, The Hollywood Reporter released an exposé that revealed “King,” a Bengal tiger in Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning film A Life of Pi, nearly drowned during the film’s production. Yet the film was still given a “No Animals Were Harmed” rating by the American Humane Association (AHA). Last year, while Hollywood celebrated the AHA-approved film The Hobbit, we learned that 27 animals were killed during its production.

In fact, animals are harmed on and off set in many forms of human entertainment. For example, circuses often “discipline” gentle giants like elephants with brutal bull hooks. Recently, ALDF testified in favor of the successful LA ordinance that bans the use of bull hooks on elephants–which controversial circus Ringling Bros. says will effectively ban the circus from city limits.  Oakland, Calif. also recently passed a wide-ranging ordinance governing all animals used by circuses, and will be considering a bull hook ban in the near future.

Chimpanzees are especially vulnerable and often used by the entertainment industry in films and commercials.  However, the chimps we see on TV are only able to perform for a few short years before they become unmanageable.  Chimps deemed “unusable” typically live out the remainder of their lives in solitude in roadside zoos or worse.  ALDF continues working to free chimps and other animals exploited for entertainment: like Lolita—a  43 year old orca kidnapped from her pod and held in the smallest orca tank in North America, without an orca companion, so she can entertain crowds paying high prices for tickets to the Miami Seaquarium. Meanwhile, we can all do our part by not visiting theme parks, zoos, and aquariums, or supporting films, or even truck stops that profit from the exploitation of animals. We are the voices of the voiceless, and we ask you to speak for them too.

9 thoughts on “Animals Were Harmed – the Suffering of Animals Who Entertain Us

  1. sue pilling says:

    this has to stop. Humans have been lead by money, animals are not commodities

  2. rae lapides says:

    animals need legal rights.

  3. Harriet Kaufman says:

    Our concern will not end; but, the cruelty will end.

  4. Gerald says:

    Thank you for this article. As stated by rae lapides, animals need legal rights. That requires commitment and courage on the part of politicians.
    As Abraham Lincoln stated: ‘I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.’

  5. Farley Grainer says:

    Don’t go to movies where animals are used. You don’t know if they were harmed or not. Just don’t go. Hollywood will get the message only when it hurst their bottom line.

  6. Margaret Moore says:

    No more stupid pet tricks! I’d like to put those Hollywood producers in a tiny cage and make them do stupid pet tricks! Thank you PAWS & ALDF!

  7. Joanne says:

    All we really need to do is to tell them all that we will not accept this behavior and if it doesn’t change we will boycott them and no one will come and see them again..we need to start using our power for good, not for greed…we have so much power..

  8. Paula Feldmeier says:

    I wrote my city about my disappointment that they’re bringing Ringling to town – I gave them some facts and told them I wanted to see a real circus instead, Cirque de Soliel – where no animals must be maimed and traumatized for our enjoyment – just really skilled people doing what they do best.

  9. Judy Budge says:

    Too many people have no respect for animals – it all boils down to the $.

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