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'Water for Elephants' Star

Claims of Abuse

5/9/2011 12:20 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

The elephant featured in the Reese Witherspoon/Robert Pattinson movie "Water for Elephants" was abused years before filming the movie -- this according to an animal rights group that claims it has video to prove it.


Animal Defenders International
claims the video shows Tai, the elephant in the movie ... and several other elephants ... being trained with electric shock devices and bull hooks back in 2005.

ADI claims the trainers in the video are actually Tai's current owners -- a company called Have Trunk Will Travel.

The American Humane Association was on set during filming of "Water for Elephants" and says "no animals were harmed" ... and filmmakers used computer generated images for the scenes depicting animal abuse.

As for the 2005 video ... the American Humane Association says they are aware of it and will comment shortly.

Calls to Have Trunk Will Travel were not returned. 

UPDATE: A rep for AHA tells us, "We were not present when this video was shot in 2005. We are not clear about all of the content of this video."

The rep adds, "We hope with all our heart that the disturbing images on it are not what they appear to be.  We know Tai, have worked with Tai, care about Tai and we have never witnessed any mistreatment of Tai."


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I believe this poor elephant is the same tai thats was forced to perform at nicole richie and joel maddens wedding recently! PETA called on them to speak up about it but they never answered.

1233 days ago


Someone should saw off their...
How mean is that? Just to make a buck.

1233 days ago


Those people are pieces of **** plain and simple. They should be ashamed of themselves!

1233 days ago

Love Life    

Animals deserve to be free and live. How can people live with themselves treating animals like this. Animal abusers should punished and treated the same way they treat animals. Have respect for nature. There are so many disgusting, disturbing people out there who should be locked up forever.

1233 days ago


Adri about an hour ago "I hope that Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon speak up against this and give money to a good elephant sanctuary like the one in Tennessee. This is lousy! I'm not surprised, though."

Robert (possibly Reese too) has given to the Elephant Sanctuary you speak of. More investigation needs to be done here. WFE was a beautiful movie, and i am saddedned by the possibility of this accusation, but i am also concerned about the mindset of Mr. Pattinson at present, as i am a fan of this dear person. He truly fell in love with Tai, and has been an animal lover all his life.

1233 days ago

Bob Goodden    

cattle prods are sex toys

1233 days ago


I don't care. Kill the elephant and feed some of the liberal morons who want MY tax money to feed their out-of-wedlock kids.

1233 days ago


I hope this company goes bankrupt. I hope this s***bag "trainers" have cattle prods shoved down their throats. I hope these "trainers" and the owners of Have Trunk Will Travel have the crap smacked out of them with tire irons. I hope someone beats them with the same ferocity to "train" them to be civilized.

This is despicable. Does no one defend these highly intelligent creatures? Does no one think about removing this type of "training" technique? No, of course not. They are all about generating income.

It is clear who the true "animals" are in this video. Here's a hint: they walk on two feet. May they rot in hell.

1233 days ago

Evan Benz    

Elephants creep me out !

Keep them in the jungle, and if they trample an entire village of innocent ivory poachers . . . well, then , like they say . . . It's only wrong if you get caught.

1233 days ago


My main concern is seeing that HAVE TRUNK WILL TRAVEL has their animals removed. Gary Johnson and his wife are now blaming animal extremists and film editing, and questioning the timing of the video release. Publicly asking why is ADI just now releasing video since they've had it since 2005? This is atrocious! I don't care if they did edit the worst parts together or if ADI has an agenda. The agenda is clear--STOP USING TORTURE AND ELECTRONICS TO TEACH ELEPHANTS NEW TRICKS. ADI stated the video is being used in a wider investigation and couldn't be released until now. They tried to get it out ASAP because Gary Johnson kept telling everyone over and over he never hits or using any kind of electric shocks or bull hooks to train elephants. Complete lie. Just because he appears to be a gentle giant publicly you can clearly see who and what he is privately. I hope people don't buy into Gary's spin on this because Tai and the elephants deserve better.

1233 days ago


So, what is happening to owner/trainer Gary Johnson and trainer Joanne Smith of HAVE TRUNK WILL TRAVEL? What are the laws and statues for abusing animals? ADI says they can prove that it is them and the abuse is taking place at the HAVE TRUNK WILL TRAVEL training facility. So Gary Johnson lied in his earlier statement that he never hits animals at any time training them. Please update!!

1233 days ago


why dont they just show the freaking video instead of stopping it with words. Sorry but I am not making a judgement on anything that only shows what little clips and I do mean little clips that they want to show you and not the whole thing.

1233 days ago


Real animals should NEVER be used for human entertainment EVER. Sure the movie depicts animals being abused, HOWEVER, the fact shows that THEY WERE ABUSED. You don't need to go see a fictional movie to get educated on animal abuse--unless you are completely ignorant. Paying money to watch movies like this only profits the ignorant and indifferent actors while also supporting cruel trainers. I urge all those with an ethical and moral conscience to PLEASE do not see this or any movie that uses REAL animals for ANY purpose. And I thought that Reese W was an educated woman...well, even if she was she certainly lacks compassion.

1233 days ago


damn thats f**ked up

1233 days ago


I think this is the problem with animals in entertainment. They may be treated well on set but who knows what really happens when there aren't a bunch of people around? It goes against what the books and the movie stand for. BTW, just because you care about animals doesn't make you a liberal nut.

1233 days ago
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