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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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Previous 15 Comments | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

Charles Moser    

Why should we force any animal to do our bidding. Elephants should be free to roam in their habitat & raise their young. What these so called trainers do is UNCONSCIONABLE!!!!!

1226 days ago


I can think of a few humans that should be beaten with a bull hook and zapped with an electric prod. These so called trainers are cruel and heartless bastards that really seem to like tormenting an elephant to try to stand on two legs.
Animals were not put on this earth to be beaten, to submission. If a human can do this to an elephant than they can treat another human the same. All for the god almighty dollar at the animals expense. Bull ****!!!

1226 days ago

cath hurwood    

whether the AHA was on set or not is irrelevant; the elephant would have already endured the abuse long before that. Any time animals and money are on either side of the scale - guess who loses and guess what wins ...Elephants don't need trainers for movies, circuses or zoos - they belong where they naturally should always have been ...protected if necessary in huge tracts of undisturbed land in Africa or Asia. Save the money you would have spent on the movie, the popcorn, the gasoline to get you there, etc. and send it to a charitable organization that preserves lands in Africa to help animals like the elephant! they belong free and in the wild; not on the movie set.

1225 days ago


This video is mild compared to the second video ADI released on Wednesday showing HTWT owner Kari Johnson smacking the crap out of adult AND baby elephants. It's 9.5 minutes long and not all chopped up. I couldn't watch all of it. Much to painful. A friend sent me the following quote she found. Not sure who made this statement, but it's the way I, too, felt when I viewed the parts with the baby elephant. "To hear a female trainer yell "hook her foot" should incite every mother in the world to protest this training and the entertainment industry for which these animals are suffering."

1225 days ago

JeanMarie Wisniewski    

I loved the book, Water for Elephants. It sent a message about animal abuse out to people. Ironically, they abuse elephants for the making of this movie. Worse yet, all of the elephants from Have Trunk Will Travel, trapped and removed their elephants from their natural habitat. So very, very sad. I will not see this movie and encourage others to do the same.

1225 days ago


Animal Defenders International you rock bring this to the light great work! I hope to see in my time the end of live animals in film with the great computer stuff we have now a days we can move out of this miss treatment, of one of the earthest smartest animals. You dont have to be a tree hugging hippie to NO that this is unkind and cant feel good for a animal that has been shown to show emotions that we would call human Joy, Love, Grief, Rage, Stress as well as Compassion.
Reese Witherspoon & Robert Pattinson please stand up and speak out! You can help change this please if you ever had a animal that was well your best friend take a second and think what if this where them. Help uses your voice for a greater good!

I hope these elephants are soon moved to a Elephnat Sanctuary

1225 days ago

Kris & Norm Benedum    

When animal handlers have to use weapons to maintain control of their animal -- especially weapons designed to cause severe pain -- something is sadly lacking in the handler's abilities. We are bitterly disappointed regarding the American Humane Association's failure to back-check "Have Trunk Will Travel." We are sickened that in 21st Century America, Tasers and "bull hooks" are still being used to assault and punish these sensitive, intelligent animals. If a trainer can't convince an elephant to perform with voice commands, treats and hand signals, then that "trainer" needs to go back on the unemployment line.
We have lost our formerly good opinion of the American Humane Association due to their negligence -- if Animal Defenders International could obtain the video and identify the abusers as the current owners of Tai, the elephant, why did the American Humane Association fail to do the same thing?

1222 days ago

reverynd. truth    

i like how all you folks throw in your 2 cents without any knowledge what so ever.i work with pachyderms and the video depicts normal training for these animals.these animals are capable of killing anything smaller than themselves and they will.what the video depicts is re-training of elephants that had been abused and were now killers.the only options are 1. cull the animals{that means kill them}or attempt to retrain them to a level that allows them to be safer around humans.animals like these are called upon to work to help support themselves.its not cheap to feed and house one.if you are that damn concerned with how elephants are treated,find a way to keep the african government from doing what they do to elephants,i.e. deliberate cullings of females and young,not allowing export for zoological studies,and my favorite,government sponsored hunting trips for the get off the backs of the people like me that are out there every day,risking my life for an animal that i love,so you morons can go to the zoo and bitch to your kids what an evil person i am.typing on the internet doesn't help anyone,so take that time and go volunteer to help animals,any animals,then,and only then,do any of your arguements hold water.and for the record,peta doesn't do sh*t for animals,only for themselves.same with the

1162 days ago

Bwana Dave    

I find elephant, when first poached in a seal pup broth and then blackened, the finest tasting of the 'big game' meats.

1151 days ago


I started to watch the clip that came with this article and almost PUKED!! It's no wonder that the 'company', "Have Trunk Will Travel" didn't return phone calls! You'd have to speak to them through their lawyers. Let's beat the back of your foot while you stand on a golf tee. What is it with males, (they are NOT men), and their testosterone? Do they feel like it's been a great day only if it's been a day filled with beating or harming an animal in some way?

1136 days ago


This is disgusting and completely heartbreaking. Those elephants have done nothing wrong. They are imprisoned and horribly abused for our "entertainment." No animal should suffer at the hands of cruel humans. Elephants are smart, self aware creatures that live in complex social structures. They watch out for one another in their herd and mourn the dead. Ban the use of wild animals in circuses and movies!!

1100 days ago


If I had known about the extreme violence against the elephant in this movie I would not have seen it. It is disturbing. Expected a period romance, and got a movie that causes nightmares. Edit this film, it is too horrible as it is now.

1002 days ago
Previous 15 Comments | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

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