National Animal Protection Organizations, Celebrities Protest Use of Live Elephant in New Film Production

Elephant chained

Los Angeles, CA—The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) joined the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), Hollywood celebrities, other animal protection organizations, conservationists, and elephant sanctuaries, to issue an open letter this week to FJ Productions. The letter—signed by PAWS’ president, Ed Stewart—condemns the company’s use of a live elephant in its current production of Saving Flora, a film about an elephant fleeing a circus. As exposed in a previously released video, Tai, the elephant in the film, has herself been subjected to the same training tactics used in inhumane circuses.

“It adds insult to injury to use an elephant who was stolen from her family in the wild and trained to perform with circus-style methods to tell the story of an elephant escaping a circus,” said Stewart. “This is an affront to anyone who cares about these self-aware, highly intelligent and sensitive animals.”

Video evidence shows handlers with Have Trunk Will Travel, the California-based company that owns Tai, forcefully striking and hooking elephants with a bullhook—a weapon resembling a fireplace poker with a sharpened metal tip and hook—to force them to perform tricks during training sessions. Tai’s owners have publicly defended using bullhooks on elephants.

In addition to the letter, a petition on, led by Emmy Award-winning television host Bob Barker, is calling for FJ Productions to reconsider its use of Tai and instead employ a computer-generated elephant.

“There is no place for animal cruelty in entertainment,” stated Barker. “Today we have the technology to replace live animals in film productions, so there is no excuse for using live elephants or other wild animals, who are cruelly trained to perform.”

Joining Barker, signatory celebrity endorsers on the letter include:

  • Kim Basinger, Academy Award-winning Actress
  • Jorja Fox, Actress, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, ER, West Wing
  • Ross McCall, Actor, Band of Brothers, White Collar, 24: Live Another Day
  • Kevin Nealon, Actor, Writer and Comedian, Weeds, Saturday Night Live
  • Kristin Bauer van Straten, Actress, True Blood, Once Upon A Time
  • Betty Thomas, Director, Producer and Actress, Hill Street Blues, Audrey
  • Lily Tomlin, Actress, Comedienne, Producer

Joining PAWS, in addition to AWI, signatory animal protection and conservation organizations on the letter include:

  • The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee
  • Global Sanctuary for Elephants (Brazil)
  • Amboseli Trust for Elephants (Africa)
  • ElephantVoices (Africa)
  • Animal Legal Defense Fund
  • PETA Foundation
  • The Humane Society of the United States
  • In Defense of Animals
  • CompassionWorks International

To read the letter, visit

Media Contact Information

Amey Owen, (202) 446-2128, [email protected]