Activists at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are planning a series of cinema protests across America to shame film fans who buy tickets to see new movie A Dog's Purpose.
PETA officials have called for a boycott of the Lasse Hallstrom film after footage of a trainer forcing a terrified German Shepherd into rushing water for a scene in the movie emerged last week (ends20Jan17).
The drama caused by the TMZ video prompted movie bosses to cancel the film's weekend (21Jan17) premiere.
Now PETA bosses are planning to taunt cinemagoers who buy tickets to see the film, which hits theatres in America on Friday (27Jan17).
Studio bosses insist the dog appeared scared in the TMZ footage because filmmakers changed the animal's point of entry into the pool, which was used to recreate a rushing river for a scene. They insist the German Shepherd was treated humanely throughout the filming, but the explanation will not stop the PETA protests.
The organisation's Senior Vice President Lisa Lange tells WENN, "As the TMZ video of a terrified dog being forced into churning water shows, animals do not belong on set as if they were props, and there is no way to ensure their safety. PETA is calling on moviegoers to boycott A Dog's Purpose and, along with concerned dog lovers and other animal-welfare organisations, will be protesting screenings nationwide to remind compassionate people never to support films that use animals for entertainment."
Meanwhile, the film's producer Gavin Polone has written an article for The Hollywood Reporter, accusing PETA bosses of sensationalising the scandal.
"I was appalled when I saw the video... of a dog trainer trying to coerce a frightened German Shepard into a pool (sic). Unlike you, the terrible feeling engendered by that video was heightened for me because I am the producer of that film and because much of my identity is fused with the belief that I am a lover and defender of animals and their welfare.
"My will is set up so that all I have shall be donated to charities benefiting animals when I die... The most consistent and closest relationships I’ve had throughout my life have been with animals... The idea that I’m connected to an accusation of the abuse of a dog is, to understate it, painful."
Polone explains he received a barrage of correspondence after PETA activists called for a boycott of the movie and an investigation was launched into the handling of the dogs used in the film.
"Last Thursday, I went to (film company) Amblin's office and watched all the film shot on the day in question, as well as saw video from the trainers and still photographs. As with the TMZ video that you saw, two things were evident: 1) the dog handler tries to force the dog, for 35 to 40 seconds, into the water when, clearly, he didn’t want to go in; and 2) in a separate take filmed sometime later, the dog did go into the water, on his own, and, at the end, his head is submerged for about 4 seconds.
"These two things are absolutely INEXCUSABLE and should NEVER have happened. The dog trainer should have stopped trying to get the dog to go in the water as soon as the dog seemed uncomfortable, and the trainers should have had support under the dog as soon as he came to the side of the pool and/or had less turbulence in the water so he never would have gone under... Those individuals (responsible) should be held accountable and never used again by that studio or its affiliates."
The producer also assures readers that the dog, Hercules, is "quite well", before turning on PETA bosses, accusing them of "fomenting negative publicity around these events with great energy".
"Not only have they been circulating the TMZ video, which portrays an inaccurate picture of what happened, but they have included a clip from our trailer where you see the dog jumping into a treacherous rushing wall of water," he adds. "But THAT ISN’T A REAL DOG, it is a computer-generated dog leaping into the water... In another post, they show a German Shepard in a dismal steel cage, which isn’t our dog (sic). Again, misleading."
Polone goes on to explain he has exchanged emails with Lange, who urged him to "never use any animals in movies or television again".
He adds, "Like Lisa, I do believe that wild animals should never be used on sets. During the early script development of A Dog’s Purpose, I demanded that a scene with a bear be excised for that very reason. Computer generated imagery (CGI) has effectively replaced the use of wild animals on occasion, most notably in big budget films like the new Planet of the Apes movies and The Revenant, but even in those films, some or a lot of real animals were also used.
"The idea of making a more contained movie like A Dog’s Purpose with all CGI animals is impossible, as the cost would be astronomical to replace every animal in the movie. For example, the digital dog that I mentioned above cost $41,075.
"PETA’s position is obviously extreme and one that would never yield results... That PETA has an impossible agenda and that someone probably tried to make money by making my film look bad, does not excuse the mistakes made 15 months ago, irrespective of the fact that the dog in question was unharmed. If studios stop backing films like A Dog’s Purpose because they fear being attacked by groups like PETA, and kids who are now the age I was when I formed my understanding that animals are deserving of love and protection can’t see those movies, it will absolutely have a negative effect on animal welfare in the future."
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