04/07/2014 06:14 BST | Updated 04/07/2014 06:59 BST

Elephant In 'The 100 Year Old Man' Was Cruelly Treated,' Claims Animal Defenders International

The elephant with a key role in one of this week's biggest cinema releases has been cruelly treated by its trainer, it has been claimed.

'The 100 Year Old Man who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared' is a comedy caper based on a bestselling book of the same name, and features a big grey elephant.

'Sonja' is one of the characters in 'The 100 Year Old Man' comedy caper, in cinemas from tomorrow

Now Animal Defenders International (ADI) has condemned the film makers for using a real live animal, whom they say is Vana Mana, one of several elephants they previously filmed, as part of an undercover exposé into cruelty at The Great British Circus in the UK.

ADI claims that, since airing of its footage forced the elephant's trainer, Lars Hölscher, to leave the UK with his troupe, he is still performing in Europe with the same elephants.

ADI President, Jan Creamer, asserts: “'The Hundred-Year-Old Man' bills itself as a comedy, but there is nothing funny about the shocking abuse of the poor elephant who features in it. Experts agree that the use of wild animals in the entertainment industry causes suffering.

"Anyone who cares for animals should avoid ‘The Hundred-Year-Old Man’ and other films that use live, performing animals instead of CGI.”

The abuse of animals for the entertainment industry is becoming more widely known and rejected by the public as well as the film industry. Directors Rupert Wyatt (Rise of The Planet of The Apes) and Darren Aronofsky ('Noah') have chosen to use CGI for their extensive animal scenes, although real tigers were used in Ang Lee's 'The Life of Pi', as well as CGI.

The film makers (Malte Forssell/Nice FLX) of 'The 100 Year Old Man' have responded to these claims with a statement to HuffPostUK, in which they assert that the beautiful elephant was treated well throughout the production, and they have no knowledge of any previous ill-treatment.

They say:

"In the forthcoming film ’The 100-Year-old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared’, there are a small number of scenes that feature an elephant character... comprised of a fake elephant brought to life through special effects and a real elephant, used for when [she] is seen walking and standing. This elephant was rented from Cirkus Scott, Sweden’s largest and most well-established circus.

"It has recently been brought to our attention that there is a concern about the trainer of this elephant. This was not known to us when the scenes with the Cirkus Scott elephant were shot. However, we can confirm that the elephant was not mistreated or harmed in any way during the making of the film. At no stage during the filming process did the production have any reason to question the Cirkus Scott's recommendation to use this particular elephant or the trainer."

ADI adds that, in Sweden last year, Vana Mana and her companion Sonja – now known as Ghandi and Baby – were forced to perform by their trainer at Cirkus Skott. After their identity was discovered, Cirkus Scott announced that it would stop using wild animals.

The '100 Year Old Man Who Jumped Out a Window and Disappeared' is in cinemas from today, Friday 4 July.