Animals in entertainment

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 1996:

On the screen
PETA on December 5 asked the USDA to
investigate alleged Animal Welfare Act violations by
Tiger’s Eye Productions, of Orlando, Florida, which
trains animals for use in TV commercials and rock
videos. “Our investigator witnessed facility owner
David McMillan beating tigers in the face, ramming
ax handles down their throats, and depriving them of
food and water as punishment,” charged PETA
researcher Jennifer Allen. “Animals have also been
left outside without shade in searing heat, or without
shelter from raging thunderstorms, and have been
denied necessary medical attention when sick.”
Finding venues for his diving mule act
scarce, Tim Rivers has turned to Hollywood, training
many of the animals used in Ace Ventura: When
Nature Calls, the second of a comedy film series starring
Jim Carrey as Ace Ventura, pet detective and animal
rights militant. Because Rivers’ role was entirely
off-set, his involvement eluded American Humane
Association observers, whose contractual role in
supervising the use of animals in films is limited to on
set action. As the November 28 edition of T h e
National Enquirer put it, Rivers’ diving mule act “is
so hideous that Rivers has been arrested on cruelty
charges in Alabama, his act is banned in Illinois, and
he was thrown out of Atlantic City by Donald Trump.”

Filming of a live action version of the Walt
Disney classic 101 Dalmatians just began in
November, but the project is already filling gossip
columns. First, furriers were ecstatic because after
intense lobbying, Disney agreed to swathe the female
lead in furs in an unspecified future production––and
rumor had it that a fur trade group paid lavishly for the
exposure. Next, furriers were apoplectic on learning
that the production would be 101 Dalmatians and the
actress would be Glenn Close as Cruella DeVille, the
fur fanatic reputedly modeled after the late Doris Duke,
who buys and steals Dalmatians in order to pelt them
for coats. Thirty-five years after the 1959 debut of the
cartoon version, Duke––then known for her furs––left
$1 million to PETA in support of antifur campaigning.
In the interim, every theatre and video release of 101
Dalmatians has immediately preceded a sharp fur sales
slump. Close, meanwhile, reportedly objected to
wearing real fur, even in the role of Cruella. The
British Dog Club opened another controversy in
September by refusing to cooperate with the production,
claiming Dalmatians might be bred for whom
there were no good homes. Disney avoided that problem
with a casting call for puppies already in homes.
Hunting groups spent November and
December trying mostly unsuccessfully to spark a boycott
of the Disney film P o w d e r, which includes an
anti-hunting message, ostensibly because writer/director
Victor Salva, 37, a former child care worker,
served three years in state prison plus a year on parole
in 1988-1992 for molesting a 12-year-old who acted in
two of his early films. Salva videotaped one of the
encounters. Victim Nathan Winters, now 20, issued
the initial call for a boycott to churches and child protection
groups, who mostly declined to join, then
picketed the October 25 debut screening. Responded
female lead Mary Steenbergen, “I am saddened for
everyone involved, but one aspect of America is that if
someone pays for their mistakes, they have the chance
to redeem themselves.” Hunters have tried to boycott
Disney films off and on since the 1951 debut of Bambi.

Oklahoma state senator Lewis Long ( D –
Glenpool) is reportedly drafting a bill to make bear
wrestling a felony, based on an existing Arkansas law.
The U.S. Olympic Committee a n n o u n c e d
December 6 that in deference to humane concerns, live
birds will not be released as part of the opening ceremony
at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
The Michigan activist group For Animals
reports that the National Cherry Festival, held annually
in Traverse City, has replaced a traditional frogjumping
contest with a game of pog.

Exotic animal acts
Yosi Sarid, Israeli minister for environmental
affairs, in late December reportedly barred
traveling animal acts from entering the country. The
ban was solicited by the Israel Society for the
Abolition of Vivisection.
The Akef Egyptian Circus was expelled
from Zimbabwe in November after an employee gave
Zimbabe SPCA worker Stella Killick a black eye for
trying to seize three dying pythons. The ZSPCA, the
Zambian-based Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust,
and other groups have followed the circus for five
years, suspecting it of covering for illegal traffic in
endangered species. Rarely performing, the circus has
slowly moved through cash-poor but wildlife-rich
Djibouti, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, and Malawi,
as well as Zimbabwe. The number of pythons traveling
with it has varied from two to seven, the number
of African lions from six to 10, and the number of
African grey parrots from nine to none.
Coquitam, British Columbia, on
November 20 banned animal acts, leaving only
Maple Ridge receptive to circuses among the 15 cities
in the greater Vancouver area.
Conflict between protesters and the traveling
Circus King, of Britain, has escalated since May,
when a lion tamer allegedly shot a female demonstrator
in the back during an appearance in London. The
bullet lodged so close to her spinal cord that it couldn’t
be removed. Since then, a protester at Clacton-on-sea
suffered a broken jaw; fights reportedly broke out at
Colchester; and at St. Ives, 10 circus employees purportedly
threw buckets of water over 40 protesters,
then beat them with sticks.
A chained tiger on November 13 killed a
circus hand who teased her with his foot in Shenzhen,
China, a special economic zone abutting Hong Kong.
In a similar incident, a bear let out of his cage for
exercise fatally mauled a 30-year circus trainer circa
November 18 in Moscow, Russia.
Since Missouri began requiring permits to
keep exotic animals two years ago, permits have been
issued to owners of 64 pumas, 31 bears, 19 tigers, 17
African lions, three gorillas, three elephants, two
rhinos, and two hippos. Short-term variances of permit
restrictions have been granted to allow circuses to
offer elephant rides, but the only permanent variance
belongs to Mike Casey and Connie Braun, of Festus,
who are allowed to take chimps under age five and
weighing less than 60 pounds to private parties. Casey
and Braun have 15 chimps in all, plus 45 monkeys.
The USDA on November 20 began formal
inquiry into the fate of Bam-Bam, a young black
bear stolen from Chicago animal trainer Beth Bishop
in December 1994. He was recovered, but Bishop
was warned that bears may not be kept within Chicago.
She sent him to live with Wisconsin exotic cat keeper
Nikki Martin. He vanished soon afterward. Bishop
says Martin threatened to shoot him when he proved
costly to keep. Martin isn’t talking. A preliminary
USDA report last April suggested Bam-Bam had been
euthanized, but the case was reopened at the request
of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
The 1995 Turner Prize for provocative
art, worth $30,970, was awarded on November 28 to
Damien Hirst, of Britain, for “Mother and Child
Divided,” consisting of a cow and calf split down the
middle and preserved with formaldehyde.
The first National Youth Livestock
Program Ethics Symposium was held December 1-2
in Las Vegas, to discuss what to do about “unethical
and illegal activities in youth livestock programs.”
Participating were the American Farm Bureau
Federation, American Veterinary Medical
Association, Animal Industry Foundation, Future
Farmers of America, and 4-H.
A pig chase on ice sponsored by Midas
Muffler, to precede the November 17 Tulsa Oilers
hockey game, was cancelled due to booing by the
crowd when the pigs were brought out. A Midas
spokesperson said the stunt would not be tried again.

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