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A 42-year-old Asian elephant named Tai — most recently known for the role of Rosie in Fox’s Water for Elephants — was abused by its trainers in 2005, according to Animal Defenders International.
The group has released a 2005 video showing the elephant — who also appeared in 1995’s Operation Dumbo Drop and 1996’s Larger Than Life — that appears alongside Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson being beaten with hooks and electric shocked to perform headstands.
“We were uncomfortable with the message of this film, but the more we saw the repeated assertions that this elephant has been treated with love and affection and never been abused, we realized that we had to get the truth out,” ADI president Jan Creamer said in a statement. “The public, the stars and the filmmakers have been duped. This poor elephant was trained to do the very tricks you see in the film by being given electric shocks.”
Members of ADI are sending copies of the DVD to the film’s stars and makers, as well as to the American Humane Society to re-examine the use of animals in films.
“I believe that Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson will be horrified to learn what Tai went through,” added Creamer.
In a statement, Fox says:
“A central message of Water for Elephants is the condemnation of cruelty towards animals. Twentieth Century Fox feels strongly that we have taken every step to ensure that the film, while portraying the perception of animal abuse (often through digital effects), held in utmost importance the proper care and humane treatment of all animals involved in the production. Fox and the filmmakers behind Water for Elephants are disturbed and saddened by the video being circulated that purportedly shows the elephant Tai being mistreated several years ago. We are strongly opposed to violence against animals, humans or any creatures.
“Fox is compelled to point out that this video was NOT taken during the training for, or production of, our film, and neither Tai nor any other animal performer in the film was harmed in any way during the making of this film. In fact, the organization circulating this video claims it was taken in 2005, which was at least five years before the movie went into production and at least a year before the book on which the movie is based was even published. Moreover, a representative from the American Humane Association was on set and monitored every instance in which animals were used and can confirm that no animals, including Tai, were mistreated in any way,” the statement concludes.
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Melvin Van Peebles