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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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This is horrible. I will not see this film now and hope others will boycott this film. There is absolutely no reason to abuse (any) animal(s) in the making of films....or for any other reason. I hope someone does the same thing to the trainers x 2.

1261 days ago


Get it right people. It is the trainers making money on abusing animals knowingly so they can have them used in Hollywood. Not Hollywood peray, and especially not the actors of this movie!!!

I would love to know why ADI did not come out BEFORE Water For Elephants with this 2005 video, so as to let those innocently involved with this movie, such as the actors, have a clue as to what was going on. Why after??? They had this video, they could have done something when it mattered. Shame on them too, for now good reputations of innocent people have been hurt.

1261 days ago

Patty Shenker    

Natalie- it was one of my favorite books too but i became so outraged that the film was planning to use wild animals that I started the Facebook page Boycott the Movie- Water for Elephants. As the Born Free Foundation writes so beautifully- "Whilst we note that the film touches on cruelty towards animals in circuses, we are extremely disappointed that the producers did not take the book’s core message to heart and make the compassionate decision not to use trained wild animals in the film. Elephants forced into the circus, like in the film, live miserable lives of extended periods of confinement, long-haul transportation, and inadequate housing in 'beastwagons'. It has been frequently do***ented that the training and handling of wild animals in circuses can include violence, the use of bullhooks or prolonged restraint."

1261 days ago


@Patty Shenker...What of the time together Tai had with Rob, who genuinely loved her...Fell asleep beside her while she wrapped her trunk around him. The days he spent playing with her, all day. Even the cast were struck by their closeness...It is too bad such a lovely young man has been hurt by this mess. The first thing he did after this was go visit Tai...Wonder what he is up to???

1261 days ago


@Patty Shenker If you knew this and were so concerned why did you not do more yourself. I am just learning of your facebook page, and the fact that ADI had this video they could have used before WFE even started filming. Why did they not go to some of these people involved with WFE, and give them a heads up??? If the abuse is so widely reported, why did i not know about it??? It is not as widely reported as you think. Certainly most people are not going to be aware of what you know. So there are innocent people here too being "abused"...

1261 days ago

Stop and Think    

Has anyone considered the fact that the majority of this video appears to feature the heavy use of sound effects to cause a gut reaction? All those slaps and squeals sound as if they have been added for effect. Try watching the video back without sound and you will see what I mean. Without sound, most of what is in the video looks to be nothing more than, at times vigorous, direction of the animals. Certainly not anything that would inflict pain. The only scene that borders on looking abusive is when the trainer is hitting the elephant in the foot. But considering I know next to nothing about elephants I need to stop and question whether or not this hurts the elephant. For an animal this large and thick skinned, it may feel like nothing more than a swat, I don't know. But these are things to consider before condemning people that trained, worked with, or made a movie with this animal.

I in no way shape or form condone the mistreatment of animals, I am simply stating that this video is suspect. In addition, the means by which this group, Animal Defenders International, have called attention to this video is also highly suspect. The group has done little in the way of actually asking that people do anything to protect these animals, and instead seems to be more concerned with creating a media storm, and therefore a name for itself, by attacking a film that in essence promotes the same philosophy as the organization itself-animals deserve humane treatment. Had ADI chosen to work with the film to promote awareness instead of against it by means of underhanded calls for a boycott, I might have considered them a legitimate cause. As it stands now, I've dismissed ADI as nothing more than attention seeking fame whores.

1261 days ago


I wish these people would focus their time on helping animals that are truly abused. If they really cared about animals (instead of publicity) they would not waste their time on a company like Have Trunk Will Travel. HTWT treats their elephants better than people treat their own kids. I have worked with them and their elephants in a public setting several times, and there is no way abused animals would convey the personality and character that these elephants exude - Tai especially. Come see for yourself, they are at the Santa Ana Zoo every weekend.
P.S. That video does not contain any employees or elephants from the have trunk will travel company. Nor is it anywhere in Southern California. But nice try... too bad for ADI we are not that ignorant.

1261 days ago


I say we hunt and kill ignorant neaderthals like Random Arrow--hateful, racist remarks are NOT called for here!
As for "I'd rather help the humans of the world than animals", justsayin, the reason these things that you mention that happen to humans are a result of our treatment of animals! That is a VERY speciesist/racist statement you made above; animals are NOT here for our entertainment, food, science, or ANYthing else! If you really care about people then stop eating animals and their byproducts, as humans are VERY abused in the slaughterhouses, including immigrant women being raped on the job and not reporting it because they don't know their rights, not to mention how dangerous the job itself is, physically, mentally, and psychologically. The workers can't say anything about their working conditions, either, oftentimes because if they do they'll lose their job. Humans are the other forgotten victims of the meat, dairy, and egg industries along with the animals, so that said, if you're buying those products you're not only supporting animal abuse but HUMAN abuse as well. Just something to think about the next time you think people are "better than" animals, as when they suffer WE suffer, too. ;)

1260 days ago

John Smithy    

Why did ADI wait SIX years??? Something $$$$$ fishy going on? ADI did the same in the UK, waited six weeks to give the video of a guy beating a circus elephant. The abuser disappeared back to Romania during the delay and ADI made a bunch of $$$$ - very convenient the Romanian disappearing?? This is a British "charity" making $$$$ in the USA - you are all being had - someone with balls should look into ADI and their goings on?

1260 days ago


@Random Arrow
Screw PETA. All animals should be hunted and killed. MEAT IS TASTY!

Well, since you seem to be brain-dead let me inform you that YOU are also an animal. So I guess it will be okay to hunt and kill you too :)
And since I am vegetarian I'll just cut you up into fat chunks and feed your body bits to hungry hyenas :D

Now that would be cool to watch!!

1260 days ago


Hollywood sucks...i hope you enjoy your film....

1260 days ago


Tai has been in show business for years. She is a calm, intelligent and well loved professional. She was in the film DUMBO DROP. I worked with her about 14 years ago. I think this video is edited to frighten and shows distorted information to raise money for ADI. I don't think any of those elephants are Tai.

I am however NOT in favor of using elephants in circus' or keeping them in zoos. That is a different and more pressing issue. This is only in our faces because it is SHO-BIZ and will raise the greatest amount of money.

1260 days ago


First of all, we all already know about animal abuse in zoos, circuses, and factory farming. Animals are not meant to perform these outrageous tricks. They must be stunned into submission before they get on a set, so with a word and a whisper in front of audiences and people, they know that a command, if disobeyed, will mean strict punishment (food/water deprivation, isolation, bullhook beatings, electrocution). Sounds like CIA torture tactics, doesn't it? All involved in this and ANY animal movie being made should take the proceeds and turn these animals over to sanctuary. NOW and FOREVER.

1259 days ago


ALL you retards on here talking about people and OTHER issues go complain on a RELEVANT forum! WE are talking about Tai and the company that OWNS her and other elephants, especially that tiny BABY! Would you BEAT your DOG? NO. And if you do, you will go to JAIL for it! Why is THIS allowed? Elephants are SACRED. Anyone who treats animals or people this way will wander the halls of the afterlife and NEVER transcend. It only says that on the WALLS of the GREAT PYRAMID IN STONE! YOU DID NOT HEAR THE CRIES of the animals you ABUSED, and nor shall the Gods lend you one ear when you are lost in death for eternity. I pray they ALL are taken from this industry to a sanctuary and given PEACE. Saddens me how MONEY will make such evil acceptable. BOYCOT Circuses Zoos and Movies that EXPLOIT intelligent and loving animals.

1259 days ago


People in the entertainment industry are degenerates. They don't care how much pain they have to inflict on an animal all in the name of entertainment. I know what I would do with these trainers, etc., then they would know how the elephants or any other animal feels. They are WARM BLOODED, and they feel pain. I do not like movies in which live animals are used.

1259 days ago
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