PETA condemns film company FJ Productions for its use of a live elephant in the movie Saving Flora, which is now showing in cinemas in the Philippines.
— Diana Munoz (@dianacmb4) September 8, 2017
The movie is about a teenage girl who kidnaps an elephant who can no longer perform and is about to be euthanized, in the hope of taking her to a nature reserve. Ironically, in real life, Tai—the elephant used in the film—has been subjected to the same abusive training methods used in circuses.
Video evidence shows handlers with Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT), the California-based company that exhibits Tai, forcefully striking and jabbing elephants with a bullhook—a weapon resembling a fireplace poker with a sharpened metal tip and hook—to force them to perform tricks during training sessions. Tai’s owners have publicly defended the practice.
All elephants used for TV and film are trained through domination and painful techniques, including the use of bullhooks and electric prods, as you can see in the video. Many elephants become unhealthy, depressed, or aggressive as a result of the mistreatment that they experience. Kari Johnson, co-owner of HTWT, acknowledged under oath that her company chains elephants for more than 12 hours a day. Of the four elephants born at HTWT’s facility, all but one died before reaching their fourth birthdays. Elephants from HTWT have also been involved in dangerous incidents, and numerous fairs that had previously hired the company have now cut ties with it.
In 2017, while the film was still in production, PETA U.S. joined with the U.S-based Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), Hollywood celebrities, animal protection organizations, conservationists, and elephant sanctuaries in an open letter to FJ Productions urging it to reconsider the use of Tai and instead utilize a computer-generated elephant for Saving Flora. But the company continued to turn a blind eye to the inhumane use of elephants for entertainment.
“To add insult to injury, you are using Tai—an elephant who was stolen from her family in the wild as a baby and trained to perform, including in circuses—to tell the story of an elephant who is escaping an abusive circus,” PAWS President Ed Stewart writes in the letter. “Tai’s involvement in this film is an affront to anyone who cares about these magnificent animals.”
What You Can Do
Never buy a ticket to a movie, a circus, or any other performance that forces animals to act or perform tricks. Highly intelligent, sensitive animals like Tai deserve better than to be treated like props for our amusement.