Water For Elephants Elephant At the Center of Abuse Controversy

WaterForElephantsAbuse300.jpgOn the set of last month's Water for Elephants, star Reese Witherspoon grew so attached to her pachyderm co-star Tai, that she described to the Los Angeles Times how she wept on her last day on set with the animal. Unfortunately for Tai, a 42-year-old elephant who has also appeared in Operation Dumbo Drop and Larger Than Life, others have not always been so kind.

In a shocking new claim, Animal Defenders International alleges that Tai was abused in 2005 while being taught some of the tricks that he would later perform in Water for Elephants. To get the animal to mount a headstand, the ADI says that the elephant was beaten with hooks and shocked by trainers. Not only does the group make these claims but they also have alleged video evidence of the cruelty which they are sending to the movie's production team and the American Humane Society.

In a statement, ADI president Jan Creamer said, "We were uncomfortable with the message of this film, but the more we saw the repeated assertions that this elephant has been treated with love and affection and never been abused, we realized that we had to get the truth out. The public, the stars and the filmmakers have been duped."

Fox, who produced the adaptation of Sara Gruen's novel, has also released a statement, which points to the date of the alleged abuses as proof that the studio was clear of any wrongdoing:

A central message of Water for Elephants is the condemnation of cruelty towards animals. Twentieth Century Fox feels strongly that we have taken every step to ensure that the film, while portraying the perception of animal abuse (often through digital effects), held in utmost importance the proper care and humane treatment of all animals involved in the production. Fox and the filmmakers behind Water for Elephants are disturbed and saddened by the video being circulated that purportedly shows the elephant Tai being mistreated several years ago. We are strongly opposed to violence against animals, humans or any creatures.

Fox is compelled to point out that this video was NOT taken during the training for, or production of, our film, and neither Tai nor any other animal performer in the film was harmed in any way during the making of this film. In fact, the organization circulating this video claims it was taken in 2005, which was at least five years before the movie went into production and at least a year before the book on which the movie is based was even published. Moreover, a representative from the American Humane Association was on set and monitored every instance in which animals were used and can confirm that no animals, including Tai, were mistreated in any way.

Our thoughts sincerely go out to Tai.

· 'Water for Elephants' Elephant Was Abused in 2005, Says Animal Rights Group [THR]


  • Strawberry Pain says:

    This makes me very sad.

  • orlando says:

    Well, the guys at Fox hired Tai because it could perform those stunts right? How did they think it learned them?

  • rani chandi says:

    if you use animals in films, you know they have to be trained and the only way to train animals is to abuse them, beat them, and use disgusting ways of conforming to "human needs"

  • SunnydaZe says:

    Most likely they thought the elephant learned the tricks from professional trainers who aren't sadistic, evil bastards....

  • Anonymous says:

    I take it you don't own a dog.

  • Julie says:

    You can train animals without abuse...The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium has an animal show with many rescued domestic & exotic animals. They are trained with patience, love & treats 🙂 And are living much happier lives.
    I agree w/ the previous poster.....whoever would abuse an animal is an evil & sadistic piece of crap.
    I detest circuses because I have read so much about elephant abuse. I am grateful for all animal rights groups who keep on top of all of this, I think if Tai were ever abused now hopefully she never will be again....

  • Clued says:

    Way harsh, Tai.

  • tami says:

    hahahahaha, win. i'm still sad about that elephant, but this is solid.

  • anon says:

    I do not believe ANYONE could train a mature elephant to do such unnatural things as to balance on its front legs. I believe this can only be taught to a very young elephant, and with heavy coercion, and then reinforced as adults by the same coercion. By then they may perform without prods in public, but only because they have been cowed into submission.

  • balyer says:

    I tried to fully grasp precisely why I enjoyed this film, because I did, but I shouldn't have. I should have despised the characters and the storyline. I should have been offended by the notion that a woman would betray her decades old friend for a man. A man has reached maturity and is still too frightened and weak to make his own choices. The resolution is neat, tidy, way too simple and completely improbable. These factors should add up to me hating this film. But I didn't. I quite enjoyed it. It took a little reflection for me to understand why I liked it, but I finally realized it was because it brought to mind the old 1940's melodramas like Now,Voyager. Emotionally silly, deus ex machina galore, it didn't matter, they were still great fun. I've wondered what those movies would be like if they were made today, and now I know.

  • red says:

    Out of all the stories I've read about it, I can't find a single one that quotes or says it asked for a quote from the company that has guardianship of Tai. THEY are the ones that would have been responsible for the abuse, so WHY are they absent from all of these stories????