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According to a number of sources, cruelty to animals is an offence and it is punishable in most countries. But in historical film it's inevitable, because if a film is looking to be historically accurate, and hunting animals (for example) was something important to the historical period and in battle sequences. For instance, in Gladiator the horse sequence at the initial battle were worst and of course that's a worst animal abuse sequences.

According to wikipedia,

TV & film making

Animal cruelty has long been an issue with the art form of filmmaking, with even some big-budget Hollywood films receiving criticism for allegedly harmful—and sometimes lethal—treatment of animals during production. One of the most infamous examples of animal cruelty in film was Michael Cimino's legendary flop Heaven's Gate, in which numerous animals were brutalized and even killed during production.

I'm curious to know about, nowadays, do the directors follow any techniques to prevent animal cruelty i.e filming with trained animals, faking the slaughter of animals?

  • For a more recent example, I believe any interaction with most creatures in Game of Thrones (besides just riding horses) have pure CGI (the dragons, the wolves, any horse violence). Though I don't have anything to fully support this. – Tablemaker Jun 3 '12 at 2:13
  • @TylerShads,If you believe contemporary movies doesn't have animal cruelty and they are using CGI, Water For Elephants will be a finest example for animal cruelty.I hope this source will help you to consider that animal cruelty exist in recent movies too. – Vijin Paulraj Jun 3 '12 at 6:09
  • Not saying it doesn't exist, just citing a recent example where they try not to use animals as much as possible. – Tablemaker Jun 3 '12 at 8:08
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    some examples of animal cruelity in hollywood are on this link cbc.ca/fifth/cruelcamera/cruelty.html which shows example from 1984 to 2005 – Ankit Sharma Jun 3 '12 at 8:31
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    You can't release a film in the UK if it has animal cruelty in it - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinematograph_Films_(Animals)_Act_1937 – Tom77 Aug 3 '13 at 10:44
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As for the U.S., producers can choose to make their films in compliance with the American Humane Association Film and TV Unit. They are the only group officially sanctioned to do this and it is they who provide the "No animals were harmed . . ." message during credit sequences.

Note that bringing in the AHA to monitor the production of a film is voluntary. As can been seen from the reviews section of the site, most productions are in fact monitored and get the "Outstanding" rating. Those which are not monitored are mostly (although not necessarily all--I only looked at a few) filmed internationally (and thus outside AHA jurisdiction) or have benign/no animal involvement.

The AHA have guideline (2.4 MB .pdf download here) that describes in detail the precautions taken to ensure animal wellbeing. Very briefly, it includes such things as:

  • Always having a veterinarian on hand.
  • Making sure the set, crew, costume, and makeup are all safe for the animal.
  • The animal must be properly trained and conditioned for special effects (e.g. gunfire and explosions) as well as stunt work.
  • Specific considerations for each of dogs, cats, birds, fish, horses, etc.

The guidelines are very detailed but may be more about what you cannot do rather than what "tricks" directors use to shoot a scene without hurting the animals involved. However I suspect the latter is achieved through training, makeup/props (in the vein of blood squibs for when humans are "shot"), and (increasingly) CGI effects. Their review of Battleship explicitly mentions a CGI shark.

  • This is a good answer, but only partially covers the question of what methods producers use to depict animal cruelty without actually perpetuating it. – sanpaco Feb 13 at 22:50
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It is done using Computer Graphics. I do not know about others, but atleast in Bollywood, all the movies that have even a small scene with any animal, shows the following message at before the actual start of the movie:

No Animals were harmed during the making of the movie. It is a work of Computer Graphics.

Some movies like, All the Best Starring Ajay Devgan, Sanjay Dutt, Bipasha Vasu, delare in detail before the start of the movie. This is what you would see before the start of All the Best:

No animals were harmed during the making of movie. The sequence with the dog is a work of computer graphics and animation.

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    The use of CGI is very recent. People have been making movies in which animals appear to be harmed but nonetheless run a "No animals were harmed..." banner since before CGI was even close to good enough. – dmckee Jun 3 '12 at 3:01
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The 2014 Hungarian film White God featured many scenes involving live dogs, including scenes of dogfights and other types of animal abuse. The director, Kornél Mondruczó, did not want to use CGI to create the animals because he felt it would be inauthentic, an invention of the human creators rather than a genuine observation of the dogs' behaviour. So he worked with dog trainer Teresa Ann Miller to find and train real live dogs and coach them through the various scenes the film required.

This video is an interview with Mondruczó and Miller in which they discuss the techniques they used to create the disturbing scenes. For the most part, they used careful editing and what Mondruczó calls "dramaturgy and illusion" to create the impression of cruelty and suffering while not actually harming the dogs at all.

The dogfight scenes, for instance, are very hard to watch as they seem so realistic, but if you carefully observe what is actually on screen, you can see that you are never shown the dogs' teeth impacting each others' bodies. The editing is very fast, and there are a lot of sounds of growling and snarling to cover up the fact that the dogs do not ever bite each other on-screen. (The growling and snarling is not real, either: the sounds were recorded by humans and dubbed in afterwards.)

It is of course very common for dogs to play-fight in a way that does them no harm, and the trainer exploited this, as she explains in the video linked above. She introduced two dogs to each other, got them to be friends, then separated them so that when they met, they would run towards each other in excitement and play-fight with great energy. The footage of several sessions of this play-fighting could then be cut together with fake growls on the soundtrack to give the impression of a vicious and brutal fight. This was enhanced by adding CGI blood on the dogs' muzzles. One of the dogs was happy to "play dead" in a very dramatic-looking way, which worked pretty well since he was the one who was supposed to lose the fight!

Now, White God is an unusual film because of the large number of animals used, and the director's strong commitment to using live animals when CGI was a possible alternative. Nonetheless, unusual as it is, it seems most likely that the techniques used by Miller and Mondruczó have been used in other films: careful editing, fictitious sound effects, and exploiting the natural behaviours of the animals.

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