PETA is the international organization that seeks to halt cruelty to animals. The acronym stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. It is the largest animal rights group in the world. They seek to educate the public about ethic treatment of animals. They investigate allegations of cruelty and seek legislation to end animal abuse in laboratories and in other arenas. They also organize protest campaigns when wrongdoing is discovered. Prior to 1980, this group was not actively organized in the force that it is today. Prior to this, there were more animals harmed in movies than in more modern times, when the threat of backlash is present.
Here are 20 movies that were inhumane to animals.
Petrine Day Mitchum shared insight on the cruelty that was levied on horses in the 1939 movie “Stagecoach. A trip wire that was also called a Running W were attached to the forelegs of horses in the film. The wires were ran through a ring located on the cinch and then attached to dead weights which had been buried. The horse could only run so far before the trip wire caused him to fall. It delivered the effect that the filmmakers were after, but many horses were killed and injured by the device. It was later banned from use because of the harm it caused the animals. It is said that Yakima Canutt was the inventor of the Running W. There were no activist group around at the time to stand up for the animals’ rights.
Jesse James (1939)
This film was very popular in its’ day, but in the modern age, it isn’t as popular with people who care about animal rights. There was a stunt in the movie that called for the James brothers to ride their horses over a cliff. The horse that was used was forced fro a chute with a stuntman falling in behind it. The jump killed the horse. It drowned in heh river an it was not clear whether there were other injuries prior to the drowning. There were widespread protests about this stunt and the American Humane Society got involved. They worked with the Motion Picture Association of America to set rules for using animals in movies. The AHA was to observe the practices during filming to ensure that no animals would be harmed in the making of films. This was a big step forward for animal rights.
In the 2015 movie “Oldboy,” Choi Min-sik commented to a sushi bar chef that he was just kicked out of a hotel where he had lived captive for fifteen years without a reason for his imprisonment. He told the chef that he felt dead inside. To make himself feel better Choi took a live octopus and devoured it with his teeth. The film showed the sea creature battling for his life. This was a real scene. Aside from the fact that the Buddhist Choi apologizes to each animal he kills and prays for them, there was no protest or action taken for the inhumane act.
The 1925 version of “Ben Hur” called for fast and dangerous chariot scenes. The goal of the filmmakers was to make the scenes as lifelike as possible. We learned that five horses and one human were killed in the making of this film. There were no regulations to govern the treatment of animals or safety on the set at the time. To our knowledge, there were no protests over the grim fate of the six lives lost in the making of this film.
Apocalypse Now (1979)
This 1979 film starring Marlon Brando featured a grizzly scene in which Brando performed a ritual slaughter on a water buffalo. There was a bit of a stir by some disorganized animal rights activists and by this time. people were beginning to voice their opinions on animal cruelty. Francis Ford Coppola was going for the shock value for his film. It was explained that the animal was already marked for sacrifice by the local tribe and that if they hadn’t sacrificed it in this way, it may have endured a more cruel death at the hands of the natives.
Heaven’s Gate (1980)
“Heaven’s Gate” director Michael Cimino was cruel to animals and to the people who worked on his set for this film. He banned the American Humane Society from being there. According to the AHA, a number of animals were injured and killed during the filming. It featured cockfights, chicken decapitation, four horses were killed, some who survived were bleeding from the neck, one horse was blown up with dynamite and cows were disemboweled. How’s that for a cruel dude?
Land Without Bread (1933)
This film was a thirty minute documentary by Luis Bunuel. The setting for the film was in Spain. It featured a goat which fell to its death from a cliff. It was rumored that it took a gunshot to get the goat to jump. It was also reported that a donkey was killed by having honey smeared on its coat and breaking two beehives by it. The animal was stung to death. Although nothing was done to the filmmakers at the time, animal rights activists and protestors who caught wind of it were sickened and have formed a long line of protestors against the film.
Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid (1973)
The Director of this film was Marshall Fine. He wanted to achieve the most amazing effects possible. He ordered the stunt man to shoot a horse in the neck. The stuntman argued with him and eventually talked him out of it. But the fil did feature chickens who were buried in the dirt up to their necks. Pat and Billy target practiced with them by blowing their heads off. It also showed a group of kids torturing scorpions and laughing. There was no evidence that any animal rights group stepped up to protest the film immediately after the news was released.
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
This 1980 film was the work of Ruggero Deodato. He had the goal to make a shocking movie. The plot centered around a documentary crew who went missing in the Amazon. They were investigation different indigenous tribes and their cultures. The film features cannibalism, gang rape, bloody violence and the dismembering of animals. This had the star Perry Pirkanen in tears because of the carnage. It was one of the most violent films produced by Italian filmmaking.
“Manderlay” was the second film in a trilogy about America. The plot centered around an Alabama plantation in the 1930s where slavery was still a thing. In the film, a donkey was killed for food. There were rumors that John C. Reilly walked off the set in protest. This is the only backlash that we’ve been able to confirm, but the scene, as distasteful as it was, was cut from the movie.
This movie centers around the decline of a Hungarian farming community and chronicles the life of a young girl who gets tricks played on her. When the girl realizes that she’s been made a fool of, she takes it out on the cat. The torture scene is long and it was shot in one take. The director claimed that there was a veterinarian on the set at the time it was shot for supervision. He also claimed that the cat lived at his home in Budapest and was healthy and happy. He made claims when he came under fire for animal cruelty, but it was dropped after his explanation.
Andrei Rublev (1971)
This 1971 biography of the famed 15th century painter contains a scene about a raid where Tatars stormed the city of Vladimir in Russia. It was in this scene that Rublev takes a vow of silence because of the trauma. One scene includes a cow being burned, but it was carefully shielded by a coat of asbestos and emerged without harm. In a second scene, a horse falls own a flight of stairs and when he reaches the bottom, he was stabbed with a spear. The horse was killed. It was assumed that since they acquired the horse from a slaughterhouse and it was already marked for death, it would be ethical to kill it. The director insisted that the horse was shot off camera, then shoved off the stairs where it was impaled with a spear. Regardless of their careful planning, the horse was still subjected to cruelty.
Pink Flamingos (1972)
In “Pink Flamingos,” there was a battle to win the position of “Filthiest Person Alive.” A chicken was killed as a part of a horrible and brutal sexual scene. At the end of the movie, Divine forces a dog who has just moved its bowels to eat the feces. The film also features abuse of chickens. This film was so depraved and cruel, but PETA isn’t pursuing the filmmakers other endeavors.
This is the story about a girl and her horse. During the filming, a horse broke its leg during one of the running scenes. It had to be put down. In a separate incident, a different horse sustained a broken neck in a fall. The investigation into these animal deaths was highly publicized. At the end of the American Humane Association investigation, it was ruled that the filmmakers were not at fault for the deaths of the horses.
The movie “Weekend” featured a pig being hoisted up and having its throat slit. This graphic depiction of a slaughter was unconscionable. There was a public outcry over the incident, as well as a news story condemning the action, but there were no outright protests over it that would make the director think twice.
This film was based on a novel by Charles Willeford by the same name. It starred Warren Oates who played the part of the guy who proctored cockfights. The film showed graphic details including the use of metal spurs and fights to the death. In addition to the gore that was genuinely generated, the producer ordered more fake blood to be used on the set.
The Rules Of The Game (1939)
This 1939 film is the tale of rich French socialites who go into the woods in the region of Sologne. Real rabbits were used in the hunting scenes to add a touch of realism. It showed frightened rabbits scrambling for survival and upon being shot, it showed a rabbit in the throes of death, twitching. The scene was not intended to shoot the rabbit for dinner, but rather simply for the sport of shooting an animal.
Dry Summer (1964)
The film is a Turkish drama that involves a brother who cuts off the only water so the villagers who are just down from him cannot have access. In addition to shooting one of the neighbors, there is a scene that shows the man cutting off a chicken’s head and then throwing it at a woman. As if this was not bad enough, the scene continues on to show the chicken running around minus its head.
Luck (2012) – TV Show
The HBO movie is a drama that is centered around horse racing. During the filming, two of the thoroughbred horses in the movie died. This brought on a lot of negative attention. The director assured everyone that strict safety standards had been observed and that the deaths were no different that what can actually happen at a real race track. This was bad, but when another horse sustained a fractured skull and had to be put down, production was shut down. There was a negative buzz and low ratings associated with the film and it didn’t proceed.
The Adventures Of Milo and Otis (1986/1989)
This movie is the story of a kitten and a pug who are best friends. It was a great film that was loved by many, but there were rumors of cruelty n the making of the film. It was claimed that twenty kittens were killed throughout the course of production. It could be because the movie was filmed in Japan that the American Humane Society disclaimer was not used. They did add a disclaimer that said the animals which were filmed were done under strict supervision with care for their safety and well-being. Not really convincing words, particularly amid the rumors. There were no definite findings to support charges of cruelty but there were statements made that seemed convincing.