Our TV Shows

Got a Tip?

Call TMZ at (888) 847-9869 or Click Here

'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."


No Avatar


This is sickening. Any animal being abused is just plain wrong. I hope these abusers are reincarnted into the animals they abuse and endure it a million times worse.

1271 days ago


Oh, come on now. I saw a lot of directing and yes- some prodding with the flat side of the bullhook. Not too much different than training a dog to a leash and then have someone claim you are "choking" it. I don't think I saw any point bullhook use save for the last scene where it was necessary to pull the skin back from the tusk. What would you like them to use, tweezers? Or perhaps a dangerous and unnecessary anesthesia? I didn't see any provable use of a shock stick. I didn't see any fear body language. If you want to see elephant abuse/neglect look no farther than some zoos in the USA. I went to the Woodland Park zoo in Seattle zoo last year and was absolutely appalled at the conditions there, both animals were psychotic and confined to a tiny space. They continually are trying to artificially inseminate the already psychotic elephants there though they probably carry endotheliotropic herpes, which the famous young Hansa died from. They also mix African and Asiatic elephants in their display.

I'm not real keen on using wild animals for entertainment purposes, but at least these elephants are stimulated, and look like they enjoy a very "large" world as well as the company of their own kind.

1271 days ago


I've seen an ignorant comment by that person "justsaying"...I just want to say why are you creating the option of there being a choice to help humans or animals. We can help BOTH and that's what people do. Get over yourself. Back to the subject this is terribly sad and I want people to know THIS HAPPEN YEARS before the Water For Elephants film so they had nothing to do with it. It's horrible those people did that **** man. I cried during this. It's so ****ed. It's not only abuse, but torture in my opinion and Fox released a statement about it and The Human Association is doing something as well.

1271 days ago


I will not
go see or rent
that movie.

1271 days ago

en Todo Momento!!    

well 'abusers' 'hide' their 'abuse' because they just think everyone else is too stupid/'too sensitive' 'understand' 'reality' and to 'understand' what is 'necessary' to train someone or something the correct and proper way of being and or doing things. so they 'hide' and conceal 'the abuse' (because, really, it isn't 'abuse', it's natural training; animals in nature do the exact same things...), just as a method of 'self protection', because unintelligent people (the masses) just don't understand that they are really right, and that they are doing the right thing, and not the unintelligent masses.

1271 days ago


"Should they have used elephant in movie." Who wrote this? Tarzan? A caveman? Proofread TMZ, proofread.

1271 days ago


sons of bitches.

1271 days ago

Mary Lee    

What an absurd video with it's quick cuts and added sound track. Having worked with Have Trunk Will Travel and having been an elephant lover my entire life, I know that their elephants are treated with love and respect. It is too bad that these so called 'animal lovers' have to stoop to these false and shady tactics to try to prove something that simply is not true!

1271 days ago


First off, I have been to the facility that 'Tai" lives at. Tai lives in such fantastic surroundings, it is a spotless environment. You could eat off the floors they keep it so clean. I have know "Tai's" owners / trainers for over 30 years and I will stake my life that they do not, have not and will not abuse animals at any time. To accuse them of doing this is the most absurd thing I have ever heard. Peta and all the other animal rights organizations should be grateful for Have Trunk Will Travel. There is no one and I mean no one that cares for there animals they way they do. They have been working to breed elephants, they have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars helping elephants, to ensure that they are protected and cared for properly. All of you narrow minded people that believe every thing you see and every thing you read need a reality check. Who ever put that video out, is going after the wrong people. Thank God for people like Tai's owners, they are the true protectors, not these groups that solicit money to line there pockets with...See how much money the groups take in, ask where all that money goes......

1271 days ago


Wild animals should NOT be in the movies Nothing but Abuse

1271 days ago


If "the disturbing pictures are not what they appear to be" then what are they? It is appalling that these magnificent creatures have to be tortured and broken in both body and spirit so that people can be entertained in a crappy movie.

SHAME, SHAME, it's time to go Humane. Shame on Reese Witherspoon and her fellow artists for not taking the time to understand what an elephant "actor" must cruelly endure so that they can make their millions. It's all SICK.

1271 days ago


I think they should have to prove their claims that this is the same animal. I think they are using this opportunity to further their agenda by making things up. This is so wrong if they can't back up this claim, but I'm sure it will never be mentioned that it wasn't the same animal.

1271 days ago


With so much animation these days I'm not sure why anyone would even bother to use real animals. Even if they do love and respect them this kind of thing will keep popping up.

1271 days ago


I for one - will not see the movie. I do not condone the abuse of animals in any manner - and I will not endorse or support any show or anything - that permits, condones, or anything the abuse of any animal. And I feel that any movie that uses animals that are abused should be boycotted! We need to stop this cycle of animal abuse and cruelty all around the world!

1271 days ago

mildly insane    

Another nutjob animal group
trying to get attention none of them
give a crap about animals you want to know who contributes
more to conservation and habitat programs hunters and fishermen
and do they get any credit i doubt it

1271 days ago
Previous 15 Comments | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | Most Recent | Next 15 Comments

Around The Web