We’ve seen it at circuses and marine parks, at zoos and racetracks. When animals are used for entertainment, they suffer—and the film and TV industries are no exception. Often torn away from their mothers as infants and subjected to lives of punishment and deprivation, animals used in movie and television productions have no control over their lives. They’re treated like props, often forced to perform confusing tricks on cue until they’re considered too old, too sick, or simply no longer profitable. Living conditions are typically dismal, and abusive training techniques, including food deprivation, are commonly used to ensure that animals will perform on set in the fewest takes possible. Animals used in movies and on TV are trapped in the recurring role of “victim.”
Using wild animals such as bears, snakes, big cats, monkeys, wolves, and elephants for entertainment is inherently cruel, and there is never a situation in which it’s acceptable to use them in a movie or on a TV show. No amount of training can ever completely override their natural instincts. In nature, most animals do everything that they can to avoid humans, but those used by Hollywood trainers are forced into close proximity with their captors and are also deprived of their families, their freedom, and everything else that’s natural and important to them. TV industries have documented that animals are whipped and kept in deplorable conditions. The anguish for most of these animals begins shortly after birth when they’re separated from their mothers and denied the maternal care that they need for normal development. This can result in extreme physical and psychological distress. As wild animals mature and become useless to trainers, many are discarded at seedy roadside zoos and other substandard facilities, where they may suffer for years without proper food or veterinary care.
Domestic animals such as cats, dogs, horses, chickens, and cows have needs that are different from those of wild animals but are no safer from the deprivation, cruelty, and dangers of the movie and TV industries. Horses, for example, are historically among the animals most commonly injured and killed when used for movies and TV shows. The “No Animals Were Harmed in the Making of this Film” tag does not really hold any weight to it.