Talkback: Does PETA Have a Legitimate Beef With The Grey?

Joe Carnahan probably knew he was in for something of a tussle when his latest film, the survival actioner/mortality meditation The Grey, began drawing criticism from animal activist groups sight unseen even before it debuted (at #1, no less) last weekend. But then PETA posted its own twofold complaint regarding the depiction of wolves in the film and the reported eating of wolf meat on Carnahan’s set, escalating the anti-Grey fight. The question is, does PETA have a legit beef with The Grey?

In a blog entry posted to the official PETA website, the organization blasts Carnahan on two fronts for being “rotten to wolves from the get-go.” First, the more general grievance: The Grey, they say, makes wolves look bad.

“The writers paint a pack of wolves living in the Alaskan wilderness as bloodthirsty monsters, intent on killing every survivor of a plane crash by tearing each person limb from limb,” claims PETA, when in actuality wolves “shy away from” humans.

Carnahan’s film (scripted by Ian MacKenzie Jeffers from his own short story) takes fairly diligent measures to portray its wolves as agents of nature, dangerous to be sure but with their own reasons for attacking Liam Neeson’s Ottway and his fellow oil rig workers. They’re glimpsed in the dark all glowing eyes and howling breaths and are seen tearing unfortunate victims to bloody pieces, but are they “monsters,” or simply animals acting on their natural impulses to defend their territory from encroaching human invaders?

Speaking earlier this month in Los Angeles, Carnahan explained his take on the wolves of The Grey. “I think the wolves are a facet of and thereby a force of nature, but they’re no different in my mind than the river, than the blizzard, than the cliffside,” he said. “They are component parts of a whole, which is nature. And for all of its beauty there’s equal parts hostility.”

To this end, every front facing the men of The Grey has the potential for death – the blizzard conditions that fell their airplane, the freezing cold, the river, the harsh terrain. A polar bear, cut from the film, was to have posed a similar threat. Its inclusion may have slightly lessened the weight of the wolves as the film’s only animal foes, but the theme remains the same: It’s not that these things are evil, but that man – stripped of his weapons and the trappings of civilization -- can only infringe so far on the dominion of nature and its creatures. Watch The Grey and you come away with a deep respect for these animals and their somewhat anthropomorphized qualities – their intricate pack relations, capacity for loss, and sense for what one character intimates as revenge. Man’s folly is in thinking himself above mortality.

Besides: If Carnahan wanted to vilify wolves as his film's antagonists, a la sharks in Jaws, that would be a matter of creative license. Do you see the Syfy Channel attacked for propagating irresponsible messages about Mega Snakes and Sharktopi?

Verdict on this count: Carnahan 1, PETA 0.

PETA’s other contention is a bit trickier. According to reports, Carnahan flew in a batch of frozen wolf meat for his cast to munch, Method-style, in preparation for a scene in the film. “[Carnahan] bought the meat from a trapper, meaning that the wolves likely suffered horribly in traps before being killed,” wrote PETA, calling this move a reneging on a promise by the filmmakers to “use only computer-generated imagery and animatronic wolves.” [UPDATE: The Province spoke to trapper Dick McDiarmid for his account of providing wolf carcasses to the production.]

Taking to Twitter, Carnahan shot back. “To suggest otherwise is cheap and uninformed,” he wrote in just one of a series of Tweets on the matter. “Not a single animal was harmed for the making of this film.” [UPDATE: Carnahan Tweeted directly to Movieline to clarify in plain terms: "...There was no trapping or hunting. We didn't harm a single wolf in the making of this film."]

And this: “Guys, I donate $100 a month to the Humane Society to prevent canned hunting of all kinds. Protestors. Look up my records & SHUT THE FUCK UP.”

Colorful language aside, Carnahan insists that no animals were harmed in the making of the film, but does he escape culpability if said animals were trapped and killed prior to filming by third parties, then utilized in the service of the film? Even if Carnahan didn’t buy the wolf meat to order – if it was in “some guy”’s basement freezer for six months before the cast of The Grey chowed down, having ostensibly been killed for practical reasons – is Carnahan culpable for supporting the kill after the fact?

Here's a note from the American Humane Association (via Box Office Magazine), which did send a certified representative to observe filming but conspicuously did not lend its “No Animals Were Harmed” seal of approval to the credits roll, explaining the omission:

“American Humane Association monitored the live animal action during the filming of The Grey. Our Certified Animal Safety RepresentativeTM on the set of the movie ensured the humane treatment of all of the animals used in this film. The movie does not however carry the American Humane Association "No Animals Were Harmed"® end-credit certification. Our process in awarding the end-credit includes a screening of the locked motion picture, which we were not given. Productions must be screened to determine cohesiveness with all of our on-set documentation.”

As for the wolf meat accusations, AHA had this to add: “Online allegations regarding the consumption of wolf meat by cast members of The Grey, have not been verified and sources within the production and distribution entities have not returned our phone calls of inquiry. American Humane Association does not permit the trapping and/or killing of any animals for use in filmed entertainment.”

Most AHA animal monitoring concerns the use of living animals in productions, but they do have guidelines regarding the use of dead animals, essentially requiring proper documentation and receipts for transactions that proves the animals were "destroyed in the normal course of the source’s operations and were not killed for the production."

So Movieliners, let’s hash this one out. Does PETA have legit ground to stand on with either or both of their complaints against The Grey, or was Carnahan right when he Tweeted the following to his critics: “Wolfaboo wackos. Your insane rants about us killing wolves only makes the movie more of a curiosity and thus, more successful. Keep it up!”?

Follow Jen Yamato on Twitter.
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  • MartiniShark says:

    If PETA wanted to take a positive stand with wolf depictions on film they had their chance, but they refused to spike those asinine canines in "The Day After Tomorrow".

  • j'accuse! says:

    There's no pleasing these people. They won't stop until we all treat wolves, sharks, and all of nature's precious creatures like Hindu cows. So what if these guys ate some wolf meat? No worse than if they'd eaten a steak at the Palm FFS.

  • SD says:

    PETA don't have a leg to stand on when it comes to talking about killing animals given the number of domestic pets they destroy.

    And the Humane Society is a much more worthy charity to give to than PETA.

    I have to go with Team Carnahan on this one.

    • Babs says:

      Local humane societies are worthy charities. The U.S. Humane Society is as bad if not worse than PeTA. HSUS is not affiliated with any dog and cat shelter. In fact less than 1% of the millions they receive in donations off their TV spots showcasing dogs & cats actually goes to helping shelter animals. HSUS even charges shelters up to $25,000. for evaluations. HSUS = HOAX and are a vegan lobbyist group and worse than PeTA.

      • SD says:

        Yes, you are right. I should have clarified. We give to our local HS and always try to support local animal organisations where the money goes a lot further.

        And I recommend this website for everyone to do their own research:

      • Mark Woodward says:

        EXACTLY!!!!!100% TRUE.

        HSUS is a political action group. They are strictly POLITICAL. They spend all of their donated money lobbying state and federal governments to regulate decent people out of work.

  • JohnnyGold says:

    Yes, Peta is totally right to complain. The wolf meat was bought from a trapper named Dick Mcdiarmid. According to Mcdiarmid, two of the carcasses were used in the movie, and the others for meat. Animals caught in traps suffer horribly. The movie did not have to take part in the torture of wolves. Thanks Peta for always being there for all animals!

    • Jen Yamato says:

      Johnnygold - I think this is a fair point related to the more interesting part of this argument. Have added a link to an article which includes McDiarmid's own account of providing wolves to the production.

      To get to the heart of the issue, I think the question is this: In purchasing wolf carcasses (for whatever use) that were previously killed by a third party, were Carnahan and Co. violating either a legal or moral line? The former, no. The latter is why this is a conversation at all.

      If Carnahan were to provide receipts/documents proving these wolves were more ethically obtained/killed, or if Carnahan were to have sourced from a person who did not use traps, would PETA be placated? Maybe not, even if this might satisfy the AHA standards for certification.

      Perhaps Carnahan should not have used actual wolf carcasses at all, else risk some controversy. My understanding is that where he stands he was not involved in the killing of the animals, and therefore is absolved of culpability in how these animals died.

      (If I'm off in my reading of any of this, let's keep discussing.)

      All this said: PETA's blog rant was assumptive, though transparent documentation on all sides would've made this much clearer.

      • j'accuse! says:

        Jen, you're right, this is overblown nonsense, and PETA ought to stuff it. Really, of all the things to go on about, this. I'm sure there are much more horrific things happening to animals in the world.

        But I suppose if people are going to Joe Carnahan (instead of David Attenborough) for their nature info, then yes...wolves are unstoppable magical killing machines. And they're watching you. Right now. Biding their time. Especially if you live in a shiny new high rise condo building.

    • wildeyed says:

      I'm not sure I've ever seen PETA actually DO anything for animals. They cuddle them for photo ops but as far as boots on the ground...?

    • oscarito says:

      Who Cares if they ate wolf meat? food is food and animals are animals. we are people and we get to EAT them1

    • superjesus says:

      PETA being there for animals? You know that PETA uses animals as martyrs right? They let animals suffer and die while videotaping it. PETA are hypocrites who don't understand what they are talking about. The seal hunt is a great example of this. They know nothing of seal hunting, yet they condemn it all the same. They are more concerned with hearing their own voices than the safety of any animal they claim to protect.

  • changewk says:

    Carnahan wins because he rationalizes well? Wolves attack people about once a century.

  • pakqq says:

    Somehow this story really makes my day...get a life people

  • Patrick Hallstein says:

    Personally, I'm mostly concerned that Nature is becoming very little of Dawkins' complex and beautiful, or hippie Gaians' sustaining but vulnerable, but rather something great but remorseless -- an entity that would eat its own children, if it had to, and therefore something homo sapiens should respect but feel no remorse in temporarily besting. It's Nature's own way, after all; and the right way to show we're still Her children.

  • Matt C says:

    I'm pretty sure we're well past the point when anyone cares about what PETA has to say anymore or takes them even remotely seriously. It's unfortunate the organization has turned to ridiculous accusations such as this and giving mario games shit for his Tanooki suit....

  • Michael says:

    PETA is stupid.

  • Carl Weathers says:

    PETA is not credible. Let's take that as read.

    But dismissing the source of the criticism does not change the fact that the wolves in The Grey are inexplicably aggressive.

    In the rare event that non-rabid wolves do attack a human unprovoked, it's usually women, children, and shepherds added to the statistics. Wolf aggression towards a group of able-bodied men is about as realistic as Liam Neeson going into a cave for warmth and finding a dragon.

    • Phil says:

      I would totally see a movie about Liam Neeson ducking into a cave for warmth and finding a dragon.

      • Carl Weathers says:

        Me too, but it would kind of anticlimactic.

        I mean, he's spent the past 90 minutes as a man pitted against the elements, mumbling these despondent monologues about the insular illusion of modern living as he freezes to death surrounded by wolves.

        Then he stumbles onto a dragon and problem solved. He kills it with a box cutter and crawls inside it like a Tauntaun. Then he waits until the birds are chirping and slithers out into the sunlight. Credits.

    • Matt C says:

      Who cares? It's a movie. How interesting would it have been if the wolves weren't hyper aggressive.

      Let's not forget we are talking about the guy who also directed A-Team, The Fourth Kind and Smokin' Aces..

      • Carl Weathers says:

        I care that there are places in the world where wolves are hunted more than they should be. That's a serious problem, and people don't care because they've been led to believe that men (who don't raise livestock) and wolves cannot be amiable neighbors.

        But just because the movie warrants factual corrections doesn't mean it upsets or offends me in any way. I actually want to see it.

        Moreover, I would have gladly paid to see a movie about Paul Hogan defending Atlantis from malevolent manta rays, even if it were released while Australian extremists were still vengefully trawling the scene of the crime, their boomerangs half-cocked.

  • Caleb says:

    Carnahan's right. Really, all they're doing is creating free press for his movie and a more negative "crazy" image for themselves and their supporters. How can anyone take PETA seriously when they're whining about a MOVIE damaging wolves' reputations-like the wolves actually give a crap-or about the cast eating something that you can get pretty easily in Alaska, Canada, and the Montana / Dakota areas.

    To me, it just seems like PETA's become really, really desperate for attention.

  • Matt says:

    PETA goes to extreme measures to protect animals in a world with great amounts of human suffering.

    If faced with a starving child and a calf in a bear trap, PETA would free the calf, nurse it to health, and leave the child to die.

    Why worry about treating non-humans "humanely" when there are so many children that have no idea what humane treatment is?

    Priorities people.

    • Will N says:

      This argument makes absolutely no sense. PETA fighting for the humane treatment of animals in no way means that they would let a human child die. That is defamatory nonsense. Secondly, wtf do you do on a day-to-day basis? according to your argument if you are not constantly doing something to end human suffering then you don't have your priorities straight.
      PETA may have issues, but fighting for the ethical treatment of animals in a world where so much unnecessary suffering is caused to them is a commendable thing, and screw anyone like you who tries to belittle it.

  • Zack R says:

    "Matt"'s comment really needs to be seen by more people. It shows the ultimate hypocrisy of PETA.

    "PETA goes to extreme measures to protect animals in a world with great amounts of human suffering.
    If faced with a starving child and a calf in a bear trap, PETA would free the calf, nurse it to health, and leave the child to die.
    Why worry about treating non-humans "humanely" when there are so many children that have no idea what humane treatment is?
    Priorities people."

    • Patrick Hallstein says:

      I'm fairly certain PETA is filled with the kinds of people who vote in politicians who support politicies that decrease human suffering. I'm fairly certain that those who tend to demonize members of PETA are the kinds of people who vote in politicians who talk a lot about ending suffering, but always seem to vote for measures which guarantees its ongoing ample plentitude.

    • MartiniShark says:

      PETA's preference for animals over humans has actually played out. Years back the orginization actively campaigned against the sale of human life-saving drugs because during the R&D development those drugs were tested on animals. Then it was discovered that one of the high-ranking PETA executives was taking one of those very drugs for her own condition. When approached with that hypocrisy her explanation was that it was acceptable for HER to take it because keeping her alive meant saving many more animals than had been harmed. OTHER people with the same condition should be denied the drugs however. That's a remarkable emotional/mental disconnect for an individual.

      Let's remember, President Obama angered this same orginization for his brazen and wanton killing of a fly in front of a live television camera.

  • Bob says:

    The portrayal of the wolves I can live with.
    Buying the dead wolves from the trapper? Indefensible.

  • Dirtsandwich says:

    To all of you PETA haters, why don't you just say PETA stands for People Eating Trapped Animals.

    Yes there are starving people in the world. Don't blame the charities that focus on different issues, focus on the greedy fucks called leaders and the morons that vote for them. Look at Romney, do you know the money he's blowing on his stupid campaign, how much that would help out the poor? Priorities people. But he's in it for power, it's all a dick waving contest. I have never ONCE heard any politician mumble anything about the problem of the massive euthanizing of animals across the US due to HUMAN ignorance. It's not on their list, but don't forget to vote people!

    If there wasn't organizations monitoring entertainment such as circuses (where animals are treated horribly, and confined to small areas that resemble nothing like their original habitat), breeders, slaughter houses, factory farms..etc, it would be much worse. If it was much cheaper to kill a real animal for a movie, rather then pay some CGI company big bucks to create one, they would if they could get away with it.

    Keep in mind, how animals are portrayed in the media is super important on how they are treated in real life by the stupid morons that believe and are easily brainwashed by what they see.

  • Patrick Hallstein says:

    I'm a PETA supporter as well, dirtsandwich. But the charge that animals were abused to make this movie WON'T STICK, if the charge is that it was done to save money. Be sure, Carnahan believes himself a huge animal supporter, a huge Nature supporter, and for sure despises those who think animals have no dignity. However, he believes Nature is hardly therefore sweet and kind -- and neither -- when they've got their heads on right -- are human beings ... Nature would quite readily take chunks out of "you," and so the properly oriented human being -- the one OF Nature -- unflinchingly does the same to it. This does not portend well for human beings with any depth, for their personality, their individuality, takes them away from raw homo sapien status, nor for animals, who can be readily hunted and crunched upon, if there is an conceivable claim that our "neanderthal" ancestors might once have deemed them threat or prey.

  • Reality of the world says:

    What is this about? People eating wolf meat? What does everyone think happens outside their city limits? Peta is a joke, they have zero impact on what is going on in reality. Keep "supporting" them so that they can have nice buildings, money for advertising, and you can sleep well at night.
    If you don't like what's happening to animals then do like most people and be oblivious to it. Animals are murdered by the millions daily for human consumption. Nothing will ever change that. I bet those guys ate a whole smorgasbord of wild meat while filming. It is what people do that live in these areas. Yell all you want, you are but a small fraction of the 7 billion mouths that need to eat. Trapping is too
    "unmoral", try living on snow for a few weeks and let me know how that works for you. Wolves are innocent creatures of the world? Watch what they do to the "bambis" of the forests and let me know what you think. Get real people, this is the world we live in. We are no more than civilized barbarians.

    • Patrick Hallstein says:

      There aren't all that many people in North American society that really need to find themselves in inhospitable environments where the only recourse is to trap and hunt animals for food. It's mostly an option ... generally for people who tend to project onto animals some form animal vitality they themselves get to ingest once they've slain them -- for regressed, psychological barbarians, that is. THAT IT SO CLEARLY IS AN OPTION, is an anoyance for those who want to make it seem a matter of necessity that Nature needs daily to be engaged with as no special friend of yours, who hold that somehow it is polite, civilized, mercantile society that is intrinsically illusory. Our current age, with its mad withdrawal of social benefits and fierce intention to cement us in a 99% and 1% narrative, is, however, doing what it can to make civilization look like a con, and a pervasive brute survival ethos a seeming matter of far more sanity.

  • superjesus says:

    Does anyone really take PETA seriously? I mean ignoring the fact that their own methods are very grey at best, it seems as though they didn't even watch the film. The wolves aren't just their for kicks, they are protecting their home from intruders. PETA, I didnt think you could dig further into the hole that is irrelevance but you have proved me wrong

  • Artist-hating Charles says:

    Mmmmm... Wolf meat.

  • j'accuse! says:

    People who care about can be a bit much, you know?

  • david says:

    Wolf meat is awesome, and wolves in this movie act just like wolves in the wild, specially in areas covered in snow where food is slim, humans are meat to a starving pack of wolves no question about it. I lived in Alaska for 10 years, wolves that live in that environment don't SHY away from humans, they take any opportunity they have to get fresh meat and humans are no different to them then moose or other animals, you are meat to them.

  • TB Carmichael says:

    Eating Animals is WRONG!
    Even for ANIMALS!!

    Food chain...

    PETA, you're a bunch of Moon-Bats, and you should move out of your mother's basement, and contribute to the economy. PEOPLE are having a hard time right now, too (check it out; it's all over the news these days).

  • Gav says:

    PETA stands for "People Eating Tasty Animals". What's wrong? Is wolf meat not tasty? :-)

  • Art says:

    I wish peta would just stfu. It's just like the idiots with religion trying to cram their god down your throat. Makes me want to start training dogs to attack people and just go visit and tell them "Go ahead, pet my dog. You love animals, right?"

  • David Cole says:

    what you think of PETA is irrelevant.

    the problem is, this film tragically mis-represents the wolf at a time when it has been sufficiently demonised for gun-toting morons to be granted approval to hunt them from the air to the brink of extinction.

    the wolf is an essential part of the ecosystem and a beautiful creature in need of protection and understanding. the film's portrayal of the wolf is at best reckless and irresponsible. it's use of 'trapped' wolf carcasses is indefensible

    • Matt C says:

      Like I said in an earlier post: It's a movie..people need to chill. Regardless of whether or not wolves act like this in reality has nothing to do with the fact that the hyper-aggressive wolves were there for entertainment purposes in the movie. Who gives a shit if wolves at like this in reality.

      No one is denying that wolves are an important part of an ecosystem...what's your point?

      Would you prefer they hunted their own wolves rather than using carcasses from wolves that were already trapped? I don't think people realize that wolf meat is not that uncommon for consumption in many regions of the world.

      • Dirtsandwich says:

        "Who gives a shit if wolves are like this is reality."

        Maybe you and I can watch a film like this and not take it seriously, not be so gullible to believe this is how they are. But there are a lot of fuckheads that will perceive these creatures as monsters or a threat at least and trap and kill them.

        Hell Palin put out a $150 per paw reward to kill the wolves in Alaska. That they were invading farms and residential areas. When in reality we are invading their territories. They would use shot guns from the air so they wouldn't miss them. But they would die more slowly or suffer from the wounds, rather then a killshot so they don't wander and suffer.

        People were killing stingrays after Steve Irwin died. WTF! Yes our society breeds this kind of stupidity.

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