People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has taken aim at Westworld, claiming that it used elephants from a company that it says abuses animals.
In an open letter to HBO President of Programming Casey Bloys, PETA’s Lauren Thompson says that at least one of the elephants used in the latest episode of the sci-fi show was provided by Have Trunk Will Travel.
PETA claims to have ‘eye-witness’ video footage that proves that the company has abused elephants in its care.
Elephants, one of which PETA has identified as being called Tai, appeared in the show’s prologue, a scene which showed the Delos theme park based on colonial India.
“All elephants used for TV and film are trained through domination and painful techniques, including the use of sharp metal bullhooks and electric prods,” Thomasson wrote.
“Many animals develop abnormal behavior and become unhealthy, depressed, or aggressive because of the mistreatment that they experience. We’ve identified one of the elephants on the show as Tai, who’s owned and exhibited by the notorious outfit Have Trunk Will Travel.
“This eyewitness video footage shows trainers at HTWT abusing elephants, including Tai, during training. The cruel methods that these trainers use are standard practices in the elephant-training industry. 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 the age of 4.”
The letter goes on: “Considering the realistic and cruelty-free CGI technology that exists today, all wild animals in HBO series should be computer-generated, just the way the tiger was so beautifully done in last night’s episode. May we please hear from you right away to confirm that any plans to use live bears or other wild animals will be canceled and that you will pledge to stop using and exploiting wild animals?”
HBO has defending itself, however, issuing a statement.
“All of the animals featured on HBO series are treated with the utmost care and respect for their health, safety and well-being,” it said.
“A certified animal safety representative from American Humane was present at all times during any animal action on the set of Westworld. The AHA has confirmed that the animals were well-treated, and the production received the designation of ‘No Animals Were Harmed.’
“We are reviewing the circumstances related to archival training footage which included one of the elephants that appeared in the series. Of course, none of this video was shot during the production and does not in any way reflect practices on our sets.”
It’s not the first time that HBO has become tangled with issues of animal welfare on one of its shows.
The horse racing series Luck, which starred Dustin Hoffman, ended after just one season, after it emerged that three horses had died during production.