During a break in the filming of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, 27 animals died from dehydration or drowning on an unmonitored farm. The Hollywood Reporter talked to John Smythe, a trainer, and they reported, "an AHA (American Humane Association) official told him the lack of physical evidence would make it difficult to investigate. When he replied that he had buried the animals himself and knew their location, the official then told him that because the deaths had taken place during the hiatus, the AHA had no jurisdiction. The AHA eventually bestowed a carefully worded credit that noted it “monitored all of the significant animal action. No animals were harmed during such action.”
Another investigation was on Ang Lee's Life of Pi. An email from an AHA monitor, Gina Johnson, was obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. The email stated, "Last week we almost f-ing killed King in the water tank." Although the tiger was created with CGI for most scenes, King, a very much alive tiger, was used when it would work. One of the takes when King was in the water, he got lost and "damn near drowned." Johnson continued in the email, “I think this goes without saying but DON’T MENTION IT TO ANYONE, ESPECIALLY THE OFFICE! I have downplayed the f— out of it.”
Johnson was also intimately involved with one of the high-ranking production executives on Life of Pi. The AHA found out about this relationship and the email. However, Life of Pi was still awarded the "No Animals Were Harmed" credit.
These are only two of the cases out of many. Audiences should not necessarily buy into that credit when it is seen at the end of movies. The AHA has awarded this credit to films in which animals have been harmed, defending this by saying the animals were not intentionally harmed or it happened while the cameras were not rolling.
On the set of Disney's Eight Below, a husky dog was punched repeatedly in its diaphragm, apparently in order to stop a dog fight. During a Kmart commercial shoot, a 5-foot-long shark died after being placed in a small inflatable pool. The list goes on and on. Read the whole investigation by The Hollywood Reporter here.
The American Humane Association is the only officially-sanctioned animal monitoring program. If the AHA is not following their own guidelines and rules, then who is going to protect the animals? I understand that accidents are going to happen. But the AHA is not carrying out what they promised, and that's my problem with it.