Tai the Elephant Abused Prior to Filming of Robert Pattinson Vehicle 'Water For Elephants,' Animal Rights Group Says

Updated after the jump: PETA calls on the city of Santa Ana to stop using elephants supplied by the same company for animal rides at its zoo.

An elephant who stars in the current Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson film Water for Elephants was abused in 2005, claims the group Animal Defenders International, which has posted video (after the jump) of the incident.

ADI says Tai the 42-year-old Asian elephant was shocked with a taser and beaten with bull hooks. Other elephants, it states, were seen having their tusks sawn down. One baby elephant was hooked in the lip, the org claims.

We called the company that cares for the movie animals, Perris-based Have Trunk Will Travel, and have yet to hear back.

In the movie, ADI notes, Tai plays an elephant that is, perhaps ironically, beaten with a bull hook by a bad-guy circus owner.

Movie star electric shocked from Animal Defenders on Vimeo.

The portrayal inspired "the producers, stars, and trainers ... to stress that Tai was trained with kindness, marshmallows, and positive reinforcement," according to ADI.

Gary Johnson, of Have Trunk Will Travel is quoted as saying that "Tai was never hit in any way at all" during filming.

With today's revelations, ADI seems to be casting doubt over that contention, although an American Humane Association observer was on-set to ensure ethical treatment.

Jan Creamer, ADI's cheif, said, "I believe that Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson will be horrified to learn what Tai went through."

He states:

We were uncomfortable with the message of this film, but the more we saw the repeated assertions that this elephant has been treated with love and affection and never been abused, we realized that we had to get the truth out. The public, the stars and the filmmakers have been duped. This poor elephant was trained to do the very tricks you see in the film by being given electric shocks.

Update: In reaction to the video, PETA this afternoon called on the city of Santa Ana to stop using elephants supplied by Have Trunk Will Travel for elephant rides at the Santa Ana Zoo. The group states:

PETA, Animal Protection and Rescue League (APRL) and Orange County People for Animals (OCPA) has sent an urgent letter to Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido and other Santa Ana officials calling on them to end the rides once and for all.

PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman:

Video footage reveals that Have Trunk Will Travel beats elephants with what is essentially a fireplace poker, clearly showing that 'training' to the company means beating and shocking these gentle elephants until they scream. Mayor Pulido needs to stop supporting such wanton abuse and stop the pathetic old-fashioned elephant rides at the zoo.

First posted at 1:25 p.m. Monday, May 9.

[@dennisjromero/djromero@laweekly.com]


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