Tag Archives: “Health of Animals Act”

Yes, Some Animals Were Harmed…

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Solutrean Prop_tonemapped

One of several bison killed for props for the movie, The Solutrean.

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Most of us believe animals in movies are protected from abuse, injury, and death.  The Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG) requires that any motion picture which engages SAG actors also must engage the American Humane Association, the group that allows producers to use the “No Animals Were Harmed”® end-credit certification to productions that meet its standard of care for animal actors.  The AHA protection is supposed to cover large animals, as well as fish, birds, and reptiles. On the set, AHA’s Certified Animal Safety Representatives are charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the guidelines are upheld.  AHA’s oversight includes film, television, commercials, music videos, and Internet productions.

No Animals Were Harmed® Certification Program

American Humane Association monitors animals in filmed media and holds the exclusive right to award its “No Animals Were Harmed”® end-credit certification to productions that meet its rigorous standard of care for animal actors. American Humane Association works with production personnel and trainers in the pre-production planning stage, monitors the animals on set during production, and enforces American Humane Association’s Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media. It also investigates allegations of mistreatment and cruelty and sanctions productions that do not meet its standards of humane animal treatment. American Humane Association currently monitors 70 percent of known animal action in film and television productions. This amounts to approximately 2,000 productions annually, where Certified Animal Safety Representatives™ combine animal welfare and behavioral expertise to care for animal actors and protect their interests.

The AHA provides the following ratings for films under their oversight.

Outstanding – AHA determined the film met or exceeded  their  Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media and is awarded the end credit disclaimer “No Animals Were Harmed®.”

Acceptable – Significant compliance with their protocols and filmmakers who cooperated with the process.

Special Circumstances – Production followed the guidelines and cooperated, however an accident, injury, or death occurred which involved an animal.

Unacceptable – Filmmakers failed to adhere to AHA protocols and disregarded safety protocols leading to injury or death of an animal.

Not Monitored: Production Compliant – The production was not monitored however a script and relevant animal scheduling information and pre-release screening of the film were provided to the AHA.

Not Monitored – Filmmakers did not request monitoring, therefore the AHA was unaware whether guidelines were followed.

The AHA Film Unit is not without controversy, as it has been claimed that they are slow to criticize cases of animal mistreatment, yet quick to defend the big-budget studios it is supposed to police, and that an examination of the association also raises questions about the association’s effectiveness. Audiences who are reassured by the organization’s famous disclaimer should not necessarily assume it is true. In actuality, the presence of the AHA provides us with a false sense of comfort and a very different reality. In fact, the AHA has awarded its “No Animals Were Harmed®” credit to films and TV shows on which animals were injured or even killed during production. It justifies this on the grounds that the animals weren’t intentionally harmed or the incidents occurred while cameras weren’t rolling. For instance, the AHA does not monitor living conditions of animals off set, during hiatus, or during pre-production, which means there may never be any justice for any animal frivolously killed off-set for, of all things, a movie prop. And if animals were killed elsewhere to become props in a film, does that mean the film can still receive the accreditation that “No Animals Were Harmed®?”  Regardless, how can it possibly be ethical to kill animals in an attempt to capture reality for a film?

The Solutrean,” an ice age survival story set in the upper Paleolithic period, is currently in production in Alberta, and Vancouver as well as Iceland.  Recently, at least 3 bison AltamiraBisonwere allegedly killed with high-powered rifles, their hides were partially stripped, and they were shipped to the set so that the actors could appear to be skinning them.  One might think that the re-creation of actors killing an animal for a pre-historic scene would be a project that is easily replicated by  Hollywood special effects craftspersons.  But since Alberta is a province that revels in a ready supply of animals for the movie industry, I suspect this will simply be another example whereby entertainment trumps ethics.

Will the AHA do with this film what they did for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, where almost 30 animals died, including sheep and goats that died from dehydration and exhaustion or from drowning during a hiatus in filming at an unmonitored New Zealand farm where they were being housed and trained, and bestow a carefully worded credit noting that it “monitored all of the significant animal action. No animals were harmed during such action?”

So who are the stalwart defenders of animals in movies – who, unlike their human counterparts, didn’t themselves sign up for such work? As nebulous as they are, the AHA guidelines are not in force in Canada, even though a production may be filmed in Canada with actors from the SAG.  Canadian producers who use animals in their films have a variety of different legal obligations with which they must contend, ranging from contractual to regulatory to criminal. In Canada, we need to look to the Criminal Code and the Health of Animals Act for a legal framework.  After that, the issue of animal treatment tends to be addressed by provincial and municipal-level laws and voluntary guidelines.

What happened to these bison was not a tragic, unpreventable accident.  As long as there is an organization purporting to protect animals that’s intimidated by powerful filmmakers, the animals are always going to lose.  IMO, the ratings system is bogus – either animals were harmed or they were not.

 

American Humane Association
www.americanhumane.org
Film & Television Office
11530 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA 91604
818-501-0123

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CFIA Finally Metes Out (Some) Punishment to Horse Transport Firms

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judgeWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

Auditor-General Kenneth Ferguson has been critical of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and now that Health Minister Rona Ambrose has taken over responsibility from Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz for the CFIA’s food safety programs, she has promised swift action to correct the deficiencies Ferguson has identified.

A few days after the AG report, Ambrose announced that the CFIA would increase fines and expand the compliance program.  This is probably a good thing, since, in my opinion, the Ministry of Agriculture has shown that they are only interested in promoting food and Big-AG interests,  and are not tremendously interested in protecting public health, and it was therefore an obvious conflict of interest.  Food safety obviously has to come first, otherwise there is no market.  When it comes to meting out fines and jail terms, I don’t care who does the regulating and inspection, as long as the action is taken as quickly as possible and the results are available for public scrutiny.

One of the more useful things the CFIA have taken to doing in the last few years is posting the names of individuals and companies against whom a conviction has been obtained for non-compliance with the various Acts and Regulations.  Anyone following horse slaughter issues knows that the transport trade is infested with people of low character who knowingly participate in the inhumane treatment of these animals.

The CFIA has had the power to dispense fines, which they call “administrative monetary penalties” for years.  The penalties were used against truckers who failed to meet standards for humane treatment, or for farmers and feed mills who fail to meet other standards. The CFIA says “every person responsible for transporting animals in Canada must ensure that the entire transportation process including loading, transit and unloading, does not cause injury or undue suffering to the animals.  The federal requirements for animal transport are set out in the Health of Animals Regulations, Part XII.”

In reviewing four years of fines levied as per the CFIA prosecution bulletins website, it becomes apparent that there are lots of smaller companies and individuals fined, varying from animal transport companies right down to olive oil producers.  Fines range from low four figures right up to low 5 figures and occasionally the odd jail sentence, usually to be served on weekends.  I saw only two horse transporters who were convicted for improper or dangerous transport conditions. Many violators may never be effectively penalized because the CFIA has no jurisdiction over transporters from the US.

auditorIn April 2010, veterinary inspectors of the CFIA conducted a routine inspection of a shipment of horses at the Windsor, Ontario port of entry. As a result, Loerzel Farm Transport Inc., operating as Ontario Corporation number 2023424, was inspected at the Windsor crossing. The inspection resulted in company fines totalling $40,000, while operations manager Manfred Loerzel was fined another total of $6,000 and received a six month conditional sentence.  A conviction was finally entered on September 17th, 2013 at the Ontario Court of Justice in Windsor.  Note that it took almost 3 ½ years to secure a conviction against this company after two horses died in transit and others were injured by the sharp interior of the company’s trailer, which they operated from April 2009 – May 2010.

Earlier in September 2012, another conviction was obtained in Manitoba Provincial Court against 5133831 Manitoba Ltd., (doing business as Shadow Creek Transport) which entered a guilty plea for one count of contravening Section 143.(1)(b) of the Health of Animals Regulations.  In accepting a joint recommendation proposed by Crown and the Defence Counsel, the judge imposed a $7,000 fine on the company.

The incident that gave rise to the charge occurred on November 7th, 2007, when a livestock trailer carrying down or dead horses owned by 5133831 Manitoba Ltd. arrived at the Canadian port of entry at Emerson, the clashManitoba.  Again,  please note that it took almost 5 years to get a conviction against this company and the driver.  What were they driving during those five years?

Upon examination of the load, numerous draft horses were found down or dead with blood observed inside and outside the trailer and numerous scrapes and abrasions also noted on the horses.  Fourteen of the 22 draft horses either died during transport or were euthanized by CFIA veterinarians.

A related court case held in Manitoba Provincial Court on June 4th, 2010, resulted in the driver of the load, Geoffrey Giesbrecht, being found guilty of contravening Section 138(4) of the Health of Animals Regulations. This charge related to the transportation of animals that were injured or unfit for transport.  Giesbrecht pled guilty and was sentenced to 30 days in jail – on weekends.

Both of the transport companies and their staff were/are Canadian, transporting horses from within Canada.  Possibly some of these were American horses though.  Sadly, we will probably never read about any convictions related to the full-term pregnant mare that delivered in a trailer enroute to slaughter at Les Viandes de la Petite Nation, in a consignment from Leroy Baker.

CFIA officials recommended action be taken against Baker or Sugar Creek auction for this gross transgression,  which occurred in 2011,  but it never appears in any  CFIA prosecution bulletin,  probably because CFIA authorities must rely on the USDA to initiate even more convictions and  fines that Leroy Baker simply won’t pay.  The ATI documentation received and translated by the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC)  indicates that the foal in this incident was euthanized shortly after his brief life began, and the mare was shot on schedule a few hours after giving birth, at LPN.

Loerzel Transport CFIA fine

Loerzel Farm CFIA fines2

Shadow Creek Transport CFIA fines