PETA recently criticized HBO series Westworld for working with elephants on set, even reporting that one of the animals had been previously abused. Now, the network has responded by assuring them that the elephants are just fine, Jezebel reports.
The organization sent a letter to HBO programming director Casey Bloys after the show's most recent episode featured elephants, detailing not only the abuse animals endured during training and filming, but pointing out that one of the elephants had been identified as having suffered abuse during training as part of a group called Have Trunks Will Travel.
"Animals used in film and TV are often kept in extreme and distressing confinement, deprived of everything that’s natural and important to them, and subjected to abusive training methods, including beatings and the use of electric prods and bullhooks, without which they would simply walk off the set," the letter said. "PETA’s experts have identified one of the elephants used in Westworld as Tai, who’s exhibited by the notorious supplier Have Trunk Will Travel. She can be seen crying out as she’s electrically shocked in eyewitness video footage taken at HTWT’s training compound."
In the letter, PETA also suggested the show use CGI instead of real animals, which would actually make sense considering the show is about the creation of a semi-sentient, digital world and they've used the technology for other animals in the past. "Considering the realistic and cruelty-free CGI technology that exists today, all wild animals in HBO series should be computer-generated, just the way the tiger was so beautifully done in last night’s episode," the letter continued.
HBO released their own statement insisting the animals on set 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 network said in a statement to The Wrap. "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."
This wouldn't be the first time HBO has been linked to claims of animal abuse from PETA. The show Luck was cancelled in 2012 after the death of three horses during filming, and there were also reports that the show's producers attempted to cover up the whole thing. PETA and HBO aren't always on opposing sides, when the organization teamed up with Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage to stop adopting Huskies and other similar breeds just for their resemblance to the fictional "direwolves" from the series, as shelters reported that owners would later abandon the dogs after adopting on impulse.