UPDATE: An on-set monitor for the American Humane Association, or AHA, the organization that was on the receiving end of a scathing profile in The Hollywood Reporter Monday, has left her job.
Gina Johnson, who wrote an email to a co-worker describing how the crew "almost f--king killed" a tiger on the set of "Life of Pi," is no longer an employee of the AHA, a spokesperson told CNN Tuesday. No immediate reason for her departure was provided by the organization.
The group behind the "No Animals Were Harmed" credit given to movies and TV shows, the AHA received harsh critique from anonymous employees in the THR story, who claimed that the AHA credit was bestowed upon projects that did not deserve it, among other claims. In response to the piece, the AHA released a lengthy statement defending itself, adding that THR's investigation "distorts" many facts. The statement reads in part:
The article paints a picture that is completely unrecognizable to us or anyone who knows American Humane Association's work. Far from allowing abuse or neglect to occur, we have a remarkably high safety record of 99.98 percent on set. Over a span of many years, despite our best efforts, there have occasionally been rare accidents, most of them minor and not intentional. Regrettably, there have even been some deaths, which upset us greatly, but in many of the cases reported, they had nothing to do with the animals' treatment on set, or occurred when the animals were not under our care.
THR stood by its story Tuesday. An anonymous AHA employee told THR that the 99.98 percent statistic is "a total B.S. number."
An explosive new story from The Hollywood Reporter claims that the organization that grants the "no animals were harmed" credit to movies and television shows has been giving out their stamp of approval to projects that don't warrant it, in many cases blatantly ignoring the abuse or death of animals.
The American Humane Association, or AHA, has been a presence on film sets since 1939, monitoring the treatment of animals during production. But according to THR, in recent years, the organization has taken a more lax approach to that monitoring process, sometimes spending as little as five minutes on a set.
"Once a distinctly outsider entity, which had to fight for its right to independently monitor productions in the first place, today the AHA has transformed itself into an entrenched industry insider," THR writes. The story continues:
The organization undeniably has improved the care and safety of animals used in Hollywood. But ... the organization's fundamental work - protecting animals through credibly neutral on-set oversight - today is inadequate.
[Some AHA] employees allege, and available AHA internal evidence supports their claims, that the organization distorts its film ratings, downplays or fails to publicly acknowledge harmful incidents and sometimes doesn't seriously pursue investigations.
THR's report includes many graphic descriptions of animal injury or death on TV and movie sets, including the near-drowning of a tiger on "Life of Pi," the death of 27 farm animals during a break in filming on "The Hobbit," a chipmunk that was dropped and subsequently squashed and killed on "Failure to Launch," and a husky dog that was repeatedly punched by a trainer on "Eight Below." All these films had AHA monitors on set, THR reports, and many of them received some sort of AHA credit (including modified wording that says the AHA "monitored" the set, rather than granting full "no harm" status).
Responding to THR's claims of neglect, spokespeople for the AHA said that many of the above incidents were overblown. They also told THR that many of the incidents would not factor into their rating of the film because the harm was not intentionally cause or occurred during a break in filming. Dr. S. Kwane Stewart, a veterinarian and the national director of the AHA's "No Animals Were Harmed" program, also defended the organization.
"This whole idea that we're cozy with the [film] industry -- it's simply not the case," Stewart told THR. "We first and foremost want to keep the animals safe."
The entire, exhaustively-reported story is worth the time to read. Check it out at The Hollywood Reporter.