Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Shocking Show Business

Posted: 10 May 2011. Updated: 20 July 2011

Next movie for the elephants that were filmed being electric shocked during training is “Zookeeper” with Kevin James

Revelations by Animal Defenders International (ADI) that the elephant currently co-starring with Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson in ‘Water for Elephants’ was electric shocked during training sessions raise the question are animals paying too high a price to entertain us?

Watch the video here:

When Tai the elephant cried out as she was electric shocked, it was a long way from the glitzy premieres and movie theatres. Unfortunately, as animal circuses close around the world, performing animals are becoming an all-too casual inclusion in films and TV commercials.

Most movie goers have long left the theatre by the time Have Trunk Will Travel appears in the credits for Water for Elephants, but another of their elephants is already appearing online in the trailer for ‘Zookeeper’ with Kevin James with the voices of Adam Sandler, Sylvester Stallone and Cher which opens this summer.

Watch the trailer here:

Elephants from Have Trunk Will Travel have already appeared in advertisements and videos with Britney Spears, Ellen Degeneres, Jim Carrey, Steve Carrel and Morgan Freeman.

Jan Creamer, Chief Executive of Animal Defenders International said: “When these animals arrive on set, trained up and ready to perform on command, I think the actors and the movie makers want to believe they are trained by love and kindness. They like to pet the animals, they see the trainers stroke them and smile, and when they are told its all treats and positive reinforcement, it is human nature to want to believe it. But the reality as the footage from inside Have Trunk Will Travel showed, is very different. It’s similar to animal circuses, the gap between how the animals are trained out of the public eye and how they are presented in the ring is huge.”

Appearances by elephants from Have Trunk Will Travel, have included:

  • Water For Elephants
  • Evan Almighty
  • Vanity Fair
  • Larger Than Life
  • Jungle Book
  • George of the Jungle
  • Ace Ventura When Nature Calls
  • Operation Dumbo Drop
  • Zookeeper”, due Summer 2011
  • English artist Banksy painted Tai for an art installation in Los Angeles
  • The Britney Spears Music Video “Circus”
  • Hewlett Packard TV commercial
  • Visa TV commercial
  • Oreo Cookies TV commercial
  • American Express commercial with Ellen Degeneres

Animal Defenders International says it is time for Hollywood to help stamp out animal suffering.

Jan Creamer said: “Some of these animals have the kind of CVs that should give them real star power in Hollywood but they’re not living the good life. Over the years in training centres for movies and TV work, ADI has secured film of lions being beaten, chimpanzees being thrashed and kicked, elephants being beaten and getting electric shocks. Movie-goers, stars and producers would be appalled. It’s time to stamp out the suffering. Producers need to start by asking whether their film really needs the lifetime sacrifice paid by a living animal. Then they need to work out whether they can genuinely assure audiences of humane treatment.”

Even with modern CGI techniques, when animals are used, they are still trained to move from one position to another, and with wild animals, especially potentially dangerous animals like elephants, that can involve high levels of coercion.



High resolution VNR footage and a Time Code Index are available on request. Photographs are available.

Phil Buckley, Media Relations Director, Animal Defenders International:

Mob: 07716 018250
Direct Line: 0207 630 3344

The video was filmed in 2005 and features elephants, including Tai, being trained by the trainers who handled Tai on the set of ‘Water for Elephants’. The footage had not been released, as it was part of a wider investigation. However, ADI decided to release the footage because global promotion of the film was being used to spread misinformation about elephant training. ADI felt obligated to release the brutal reality behind the scenes.

It is disturbing that this movie features the beating of an elephant in circuses, while trying to give the impression that this is a “one off” event, yet ADI evidence has shown such treatment to be endemic during elephant training. ADI’s investigations over the past twenty years in the UK, Europe, South America and the US have shown that life for animals in circuses is one of day to day brutality, ranging from the quick kick or punch, to a full-blown beating. This treatment arises from the nature of the culture of animal management in circuses.

ADI is leading the campaign to end the suffering of animals in entertainment and currently has major campaigns running in Europe, South America and the USA. The organisation has just rescued a record breaking 25 circus lions from Bolivia to the US, having conducted undercover investigations in Bolivia which helped close down the circus industry in the country for good.

National measures to prohibit or limit the use of animals in circuses have already been adopted in Bolivia, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden, Singapore, Costa Rica, India and Israel and similar laws are being discussed in the UK, Brazil, Chile, Norway, Peru and Greece.


These are the claims made about the protection of animals during the making of ‘Water for Elephants’:

"Have Trunk Will Travel has never issued a written endorsement, nor does it condone using electrical devices to discipline and control elephants except in situations where elephant or human safety is at risk." Kari Johnson, Have Trunk Will Travel

“Tai was never hit in any way at all,” Gary Johnson, Have Trunk Will Travel

"We had really mixed emotions about even doing this film because it’s pretty graphic with the elephant, and there’s some so-called beating scenes in there. We didn’t want to send a wrong message" Gary Johnson, the co-owner of Have Trunk Will Travel.

“She is the furthest thing from being an abused animal.”
Jone Bouman, Director of Communications for American Humane Film TV Unit

“We’re here observing prep on Water for Elephants and so we’re here to make sure that everybody knows that not only the action on set but also the prep is humanely done, all these animals have been treated fairly and humanely throughout the entire course of their training.” Danielle Macdonald Wolcott-American Humane Safety Rep & Humane Officer

“To get the huge animal to obey, Tai’s trainer gave her constant positive reinforcement. Whether it was a food treat or play time, continual rewards motivated Tai to perform for the camera — without any need for threats or violence, ever.” American Humane

“In fact, her trainer never had to raise his voice much above a whisper to get Tai to listen.” American Humane

“Because Tai has never known mistreatment, she does not view the flailing as anything more than some imbecile beating the air.” Linda Reeve Preddie, Tai’s veterinarian

“And the reality is it is actually a trained behavior for her to do something. She’s not reacting to the swing of the stick she’s reacting to the verbal cue and the training that she’s being asked to perform.” Tonya Obeso- American Humane Safety Rep & Humane Officer

American Humane Association:
The American Humane Association (AHA) is a nonprofit corporation which works with the entertainment industry and has established humane filmmaking guidelines. AHA observes movie production on and off set when animals are being used in order for the movie to earn the “no animals were harmed” trademark symbol of approval. Applying this label to a film carries enormous responsibility, because it creates confidence that the compassionate movie-going public can ethically support any film with AHA’s endorsement.

Have Trunk Will Travel is owned by Gary and Kari Johnson and is based in Perris, California, USA. Their group of performing Asian elephants (with approximate ages) includes: Tai (45), Rosie (30), Dixie (46), Kitty (45), Becky (26), Tess (30, and her baby, seen at the time of the investigation, is Tucker; now on loan to Houston Zoo).

Movies with elephants supplied by Have Trunk Will Travel:
Water For Elephants, 2011 (Fox) (Tai), Evan Almighty, 2007 (Universal Studios), Vanity Fair, 2004 (Focus Features) (Tai), Larger Than Life, 1996 (United Artists MGM) (Tai), Jungle Book, 1994 (Walt Disney Pictures), George of the Jungle, 1997 (Disney Studios) (Tai), Ace Ventura When Nature Calls, 1995 (Morgan Creek Warner Brothers), Operation Dumbo Drop, 1995 (Walt Disney Pictures), Exit Through the Gift Shop, documentary, 2009 (Tai) – as well as the upcoming ‘Zookeeper, Summer, 2011 (MGM and Sony Pictures).

Music Videos and TV commercials include:
The Britney Spears Music Video “Circus” 2008 (Tai). Commercials: Hewlett Packard, Visa, Oreo Cookies and with Ellen Degeneres in an advertisement for American Express.

Tai was the elephant whose body was painted by British artist Banksy; she was then placed on display in 2006, in Los Angeles, causing condemnation of cruelty.

Animal Defenders International (ADI) With offices in London, Los Angeles, and Bogota Animal Defenders International (ADI) is a major international campaigning group, lobbying to protect animals on issues such as animals in entertainment and their use in experiments; worldwide traffic in endangered species; vegetarianism; factory farming; pollution and conservation. ADI involves itself in international animal rescues as well as educational work on animals, conservation and environment. Founded in 1990, ADI has become a major force for animal protection and has succeeded through its undercover investigations in securing legal protection for animals. ADI opposes violence or intimidation whether directed at humans or other animals.

ADI’s Mission:
To educate, create awareness, and promote the interest of humanity in the cause of justice, and the suppression of all forms of cruelty to animals wherever possible to alleviate suffering, and to conserve and protect animals and the environment.

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