Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Abused movie elephant stars appearing in Shrine circus this weekend

Posted: 6 April 2012

Bismark, ND—Footage released by Animal Defenders International (ADI) shows the stars of Hollywood movies ‘Water for Elephants’ and ‘Zookeeper’ who are appearing this weekend in Bismark with The Missouri Slope Shrine Circus, being shocked with handheld electric prods and violently hit with bullhooks during training sessions for circus tricks. ADI is calling on Bismark residents to steer clear of the circus this weekend at the Bismarck Civic Center Today and Saturday and say ‘no’ to animal suffering for entertainment.

The video also shows presenter Joanne Smith, a trainer with animal act supplier Have Trunk Will Travel, confirm that the two elephants giving rides and performing headstands with the circus are Tai, star of Water for Elephants and Rosie, who appeared in Zookeeper.

Jan Creamer, President of ADI: “The links between Hollywood and the circus industry are exposed. There was no Hollywood ending for Tai and Rosie. For Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson Water for Elephants was a romantic fantasy. For Tai, it is a nightmare reality. She remains in the hands of those people caught on film beating and electric shocking her. There are no glamorous premieres for Tai, her life is one of pain and fear, inflicted by so-called trainers. It’s tragic.”

Watch the video
Water for Elephants was met with a storm of controversy last year after ADI released undercover footage of Tai being beaten and electric shocked at Have Trunk Will Travel.

ADI released the footage after the film’s makers, stars, American Humane, and Have Trunk Will Travel themselves, claimed the elephant had been treated with love and affection and never abused. ADI sent copies of the video to the studio, producers, director and stars Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon. Pattinson and Witherspoon had previously issued statements expressing how much they cared for the elephant that shared the screen with them. No one replied. Letters were also sent to the makers of Zookeeper and its star, Kevin James. No response.

Jan Creamer: “At the time we genuinely believed that Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon had been duped. We sent them the video and asked them to speak out. Not a word. The abuse of performing animals in movies is not going to stop until the stars speak out.”

ADI has posted the latest video on the Facebook pages and Twitter feeds of Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, and Kevin James, and asking that they speak out against the abuse and support the ADI campaign. DVDs are also being mailed to the stars.

The exposé by ADI of Have Trunk Will Travel, suppliers of elephants to almost countless advertisements and movies, and the recent halting of TV show Luck, following the deaths of horses, shows that animal suffering and abuse remains a serious problem in movie and TV production.

The ADI video of training at Have Trunk Will Travel in Perris, California shows:

  • Elephants being repeatedly electric shocked with stun guns to force them to perform tricks.
  • Elephants being hooked and beaten with bullhooks.
  • A baby elephant being hit, having the air supply through his trunk cut off, and even being hooked inside the mouth

Santa Ana Zoo and the Orange County Fair recently ended elephant rides using animal supplied by Have Trunk Will Travel.

ADI are currently urging people to contact members of Congress asking them to sign HR3359 the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act, launched in November by award-winning TV show host Bob Barker and CSI start Jorja Fox, to restrict the use of wild animals like elephants in traveling circuses.

Jan Creamer: ‘The recent decision by the Orange County Fair Board shows that when people weigh up the evidence they will say ‘no’ to animal suffering for entertainment. If Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Kevin James and others would come out and condemn the abuse and back TEAPA, HR3359, it would go a long way to restoring the industry’s tarnished image.”


Contact ADI: Matt Rossell, 323-804-9920
Water for Elephants was released in 2011.

Female Asian elephant Tai (45 years) starred as abused elephant ‘Rosie’ in the romance, set in the 1920s. For the release, the studio, stars, owners Have Trunk Will Travel and American Humane all insisted that Tai had been trained with kindness (see below).

Animal Defenders International (ADI) therefore released footage of the elephants at Have Trunk Will Travel being beaten with bullhooks and shocked with stun guns to make them perform the tricks seen on the movie. The footage, amounting to nearly 10 hours, had been recorded over a period of about 8 weeks during an undercover investigation during August and September 2005. It had not been released previously as it was part of a wider investigation. Due to the fraudulent claims being made that no harm had come to Tai, ADI decided that the footage must be released:

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).

As the leader of the Break the Chain campaign, ADI works with animal rights and welfare organizations across the U.S. , and is currently working to gain grassroots support for the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act (H.R. 3359), which currently has 18 co-sponsors and is awaiting a hearing in the House Committee on Agriculture subcommittee of Livestock, Dairy and Poultry. ADI has conducted investigations of circuses all over the world and has produced comprehensive reports, including one in the U.S. called Science on Suffering which details and provides evidence of the inherent suffering of animals forced to travel and perform.

To find out more information on ADI’s Break the Chain campaign, visit

For more information about the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act (H.R. 3359) visit

Animal Defenders International
With offices in Los Angeles, London and Bogota, ADI campaigns across the globe on animals in entertainment, providing technical advice to governments, securing progressive animal protection legislation, drafting regulations and rescuing animals in distress. ADI has a worldwide reputation for providing video and photographic evidence exposing the behind-the-scenes suffering in industry and supporting this evidence with scientific research on captive wildlife and transport. ADI rescues animals all over the world, educates the public on animals and environmental issues.

More information is available on ADI’s U.S. website:

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