HBO is hoping to set the record straight about its use of elephants in a recent Westworld episode, following People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ criticism about employing allegedly abused animals for entertainment.
Lauren Thomasson, PETA’s manager of animals in film and television, published an open letter on Monday to Casey Bloys, president of programming at HBO, in which she slammed the network for using real elephants in Sunday’s hour of Westworld. The controversy was sparked by a 2011 video that recently surfaced, where elephants kept at Have Trunk Will Travel — one of the only remaining companies to provide these animals for the entertainment industry — can be seen getting abused.
PETA said it had identified one of the elephants from that video, Tai, as an animal used in Westworld‘s latest installment.
“In light of the egregious cruelty and human health risks as well as the public’s growing opposition to the use of animals for entertainment — and because reports say that there are still plans to use bears this season — we’re urging HBO to commit to not using any wild animals in future episodes or other series,” Thomasson wrote in her letter. “Considering the realistic and cruelty-free CGI technology that exists today, all wild animals in HBO series should be computer-generated.”
HBO has since responded to the backlash, maintaining in a statement that the network treats all animals “with the utmost care and respect for their health, safety and well-being.”
Read the full statement below:
All of the animals featured on HBO series are treated with the utmost care and respect for their health, safety and well-being. A certified animal safety representative from American Humane was present at all times during any animal action on the set of Westworld. The AHA has confirmed that the animals were well-treated, and the production received the designation of “No Animals Were Harmed.” We are reviewing the circumstances related to archival training footage which included one of the elephants that appeared in the series. Of course, none of this video was shot during the production and does not in any way reflect practices on our sets.
The statement does not address whether HBO will stop using real animals in the future.