Last fall, news broke that several animals that were used in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit died while being kept in unsafe conditions. As the animals weren’t technically harmed during filming, the case raised issues of animal safety regulations in film. We’re all familiar with the slogan that runs after the credits that “no animals were harmed in the making of this film,” but who’s accountable when harm befalls creatures off set? As The New York Times recently reported, the answers aren’t clear.
The American Humane Association has a 131-page book, nay tome, of guidelines that should be imposed on all film and television productions. The rules, however, are harder to enforced as the AHA only has limited resources in a time when DIY filmmaking is proliferating. The chief executive of the organization, Robin R. Ganzert, said in an interview with the Times that “the business model in the industry has changed.” Monitoring studios was one thing, but “indie films, cable TV and even Internet productions” are proving harder to keep track of. Further, like many industries, Ms. Ganzert’s organization has been hit by hard economic times, as she’s had to make budget cuts of 30% and cut “six monitors in the Hollywood unit.”
As public outrage over animal abuse in films is swift, studios tend to take the AHA’s certification very seriously. But early this week a meeting of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences was held to address the issue. At the time of printing of the Times article only Warner Bros. (The Hobbit’s studio) had said they would attend.