Sold out! Performances of terminator tank, hang tough, hit and run, dog fight, whiplash and eliminator are instant sell outs. I'm not talking about tickets for a new series of Gladiators but the way animals are treated in some of the highest earning Hollywood blockbusters.
I know that watching a movie is just one way of 'chillaxing' on a winter's night, a couple of hours of escapism from everyday life, but to me, I'm afraid, films are beginning to symbolise one more way that society finds it acceptable to harm and kill animals for our pleasure. And so, as more and more animals are appearing, and dying, in movie making, and films are often seen as a vignette of society, a reflection of who we are and our interactions with our surroundings, some are rapidly falling off my 'must see' list.
Like most people, I used to love a good screen tragedy. But nowadays, it would seem that even the most unlikely of films have something genuinely tragic about them, including a good fantasy adventure like The Hobbit. Instead of leaving in a warm glow of pleasure after an evening spent at Cineworld with friends watching Pirates of the Caribbean, my emotions are riding a roller coaster every bit as hairy as the Disneyland one that inspired it.
This was after reading on the entertainment pages the deplorable fate that met the tiger star of Life Of Pi, who almost drowned to death in filming, the dozens of fish and marine animals washed ashore during the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean, the sheep and goats who died during the filming of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the horses who passed away during filming for HBO's Luck, the squirrel crushed to death by the film crew in Failure to Launch and the husky dog beaten and punched on Disney's 2006 film Eight Below. These are the unsung heroes who deserve celebrating far more than the Captain Jack Sparrows or the all singing dwarfs, goblins, trolls and orcs of these billion buster smash hits.
Sadly, these incidents of animal neglect and mistreatment are not isolated and as more and more animals make star appearances more lives are put at risk. Despite what The Hollywood Reporter has been saying about The American Humane Association who not only failed to protect animals on set, but also covered up those lapses, the Pirates of the Caribbean and The Hobbit have broken records for box office takings.
As animal cruelty becomes as much of a film fact as their bonanza returns, so too is the fictional element of films stretching to the "no animals were harmed" stamp. We used to take comfort in the thought that what happens on screen isn't real and we believed the official slogan that no animals were harmed. 'It's only a film,' my mother always told me as a child. But now, that showbiz veneer no longer seems to protect those who are playing a role they never consented to.
Involuntary participants like these are not actors or entertainers. Not even respected as sentient creatures they are considered only in terms of the financial value placed upon them, as parts of the mechanical units of film production and profit. And there is certainly nothing glamorous on a film set for these performers, spending most of their time either in cramped cages or subject to cruel training methods.
But I am feeling hopeful. If sales of higher welfare animal products are anything to go by, we are becoming increasingly concerned about the suffering and cruelty inflicted upon animals in other areas of our lives. Perhaps, then, we will demonstrate our desire for animals to be treated compassionately when it comes to movie night too. As more people begin to question whether killing animals for pleasure is ever acceptable maybe we will spare a thought for the fate of those animals after 'The End.' Otherwise, for as long as we hand our money over at the box office animals will keep dying for our entertainment. To the film industry, animal exploitation is a small price to pay given the gigantic box-office payoff.
Tim Burton once said "Certain things leave you in your life and certain things stay with you. And that's why we're all interested in movies- those ones that make you feel, you still think about. Because it gave you such an emotional response, it's actually part of your emotional make-up, in a way." Let's show an interest in the films that reflect our emotional make up and that of the society in which we want to live.