The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is calling out popular sci-fi series "Westworld" for the mistreatment of elephants in the third episode of the HBO show.
After footage surfaced of Taj, one of the elephants, being abused during a training session, PETA’s Manager of Animals in Film and Television, Lauren Thomasson, penned an open letter to HBO President of Programming Casey Bloys urging the producers of the show to use computer-generated imagery (CGI) technology for scenes involving animals.
“Public opposition to the use of animals for entertainment is stronger than ever — evident from the closure of Ringling Bros. circus after 146 years of exploitation and the dozens of travel companies that have pulled elephant rides from their offerings,” the letter read.
“Considering the realistic and cruelty-free CGI technology that exists today, all wild animals in HBO series should be computer-generated," it noted.
In response to PETA's concerns, HBO released a statement defending its treatment of animals. "All of the animals featured on HBO series are treated with the utmost care and respect for their health, safety and well-being," it read. "A certified animal safety representative from American Humane [AHA] was present at all times during any animal action on the set of Westworld. The AHA has confirmed that the animals were well-treated, and the production received the designation of 'No Animals Were Harmed.'”
The HBO statement continued on to say, "We are reviewing the circumstances related to archival training footage which included one of the elephants that appeared in the series. Of course, none of this video was shot during the production and does not in any way reflect practices on our sets."
Since the return of the HBO series in April, the series has also fought off critics who said the Western-inspired show “romanticizes” gun violence.
During the show's TriBeCa TV premiere, Jeffry Wright, who stars on the series as Bernard, defended the show's use of guns and its violent themes.
“I don’t think there is an attempt to glamorize gun violence on the show in any respect,” Wright told Fox News on the red carpet at the April event. “The violence that we visit in the show is not judged to be a good thing. It’s judged to be an aberration and I think we – the characters who are on the moral side of the equation – view it that way. I don’t see that there’s any purpose in glamorizing gun violence.”
Addressing the current gun violence issue in the United States, Wright said the problem is access to guns, not what's showcased on TV.
“There are too many guns. We have more guns per capita than any other country in the world. We have more guns in our country than citizens. I think we could with maybe 100 million fewer guns. And I think we’d be OK. But that’s the problem, we fetishize guns. And I think the show is commenting on that.”
“Westworld” airs Sundays on HBO.