Letter to the editor

I’m writing in response to Claude Brodessor’s article, “Org finds ‘Flicka’ Horse Deaths Accidental; AHA, City Investigators Reach Same Conclusion,” (Daily Variety, May 5).

The American Humane Association (AHA) claims that it doesn’t know why People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is “attacking” them for the deaths of two horses during the filming of “My Friend Flicka.”

That claim is disingenuous. During the past year, PETA has repeatedly requested meetings with the AHA to discuss our concerns about its film monitoring. AHA has refused.

The AHA has a pattern of defending trainers and attacking witnesses when animals die or are injured on the set or when whistleblowers report mistreatment. Since the AHA’s film-monitoring unit is funded by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), AHA representatives are paid by the very industry they are monitoring.

Both the AHA and the SAG, whose frustrated members have called us from sets to report animal abuse reportedly ignored by AHA inspectors, need to push for accountability and for extending monitoring authority to other humane organizations to ensure objectivity.

The AHA’s “Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media” are woefully inadequate. The group does not even require animal trainers to comply with the federal animal protection laws. The “No Animals Were Harmed During the Making of This Film” disclaimer is misleading, as neither the AHA nor any other agency monitors pre-production training sessions.

Many animals will only perform through physical punishment, fear and intimidation. PETA asks the AHA to require trainers involved in productions using great apes to comply with the Animal Welfare Act; to require trainers to provide a written plan for the permanent care of each great ape they use; to require that chimpanzees and orangutans remain with their mothers for at least the first five years of their lives; to include a “great-ape disclaimer” that would clarify that the AHA does not monitor pre-production training or the living conditions of animals used in film productions; to expand monitoring authority to a PETA representative; and to encourage the film and television industries to use alternatives to great apes and other exotic animals.

Debbie Leahy

Director, Captive Animals and Entertainment Issues

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

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