Only hours after The Hollywood Reporter published a damning expose on the American Humane Association and the tenuous truth behind its "No animals were harmed" trademark for entertainment productions, the organization has responded with a rebuttal; accusing THR of distorting "the work and record of a respected nonprofit organization that has kept millions of beloved animal actors safe on film and television sets around the world for more than 70 years."
Citing a safety record of 99.98 percent, AHA addresses many of THR's animal abuse claims - while also referencing recent improvements to the organization's quality of monitoring and decrying the notion that animal abuse in Hollywood is rampant. "Abuse in film and entertainment is not pervasive, as the salacious headlines imply; rather our experience is that most everyone we work with in production settings want to do right by the animals, as do we," AHA says in a press release.
The Hollywood Reporter's "Animals Were Harmed" expose cites several examples of recent animal abuse on film sets - many of which we've covered here on MNN. These include the horse deaths that ultimately led to the cancellation of HBO's drama "Luck" and the loss of 27 animals for Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit."
With nearly all of the known incidents, THR claims that AHA either downplayed the tragedies, deflected blame, or declined to investigate further. Insiders tell THR that the organization's "cozy" relationship with big Hollywood productions is also to blame.
“The AHA does not explain why the films get the ratings they do to hide the fact that they do not give them accurately across the board and that special relationships may be taken into account,” says one staffer. “Management pressures postproduction [its department responsible for the assessments] to give good reviews. Even relationships that aren’t special yet might be in the future, and they don’t want to rock the boat.”
While the AHA acknowledges the regrettable deaths of some of the animals under its watch, they say many of the cases either happened independent of filming or after production had wrapped. In addition, they outline some of the new, sweeping changes the organization has implemented - including the creation of a Scientific Advisory Committee, composed of global experts in animal welfare, hiring licensed veterinarians to serve as Certified Safety Representatives on set, and the use of independent, third-party investigators anytime an animal is seriously injured or dies during production.
"We are a mission-driven small nonprofit that has not only worked to protect animals working in film and entertainment across the country and around the globe, we have done so by utilizing millions of dollars of our own funds so that the certified animal safety representatives could be on more than 2,000 sets a year, making sure that some 100,000 of our most beloved animal co-stars are treated humanely and kept safe each and every year," they state.
That last bit - the one about "utilizing our own funds" - is something the AHA will not be able to claim in all cases going forward. Casting a dark cloud over the positive changes listed above is the new fiscal policy of charging productions for animal welfare coverage. Critics say this will lead to further conflict of interests and less tendencies to "rock the boat" of deep pocketed studios.
"If this new policy goes into effect, the AHA will be even less likely to jeopardize its funding (it’s currently funded largely by the Screen Actors Guild) by speaking up for animals, and more animals will be put in dangerous situations, injured, or killed," states a rep for PETA.
You can watch a rep for the AHA respond to THR's report in an interview with NBC4 below.
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