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Why? – Meet the Animals



In Nature:  Pachyderms enjoy a very complex and organized social life. Herds travel in groups of several dozen members and are usually structured around a matriarchy. This highly gregarious life brings animals to communicate with each other primarily through touch and smell. Elephants are nomadic; they live in large territories and can travel 20 to 50 miles in a single day. Elephants are in contact with water as often as they can. They drink often and in copious amounts (80 to 160 litres per day). Water also plays an important role in their social lives and their grooming. Additionally, the mud and dust baths protect them from parasites and also provide them with an effective shield against the sun. They spend between 60 and 80% of their time looking for food and water. Elephants are highly intelligent, have the capacity to use tools, a long memory, and even mourn the death of their fellows.

In captivity:  Elephants living in captivity do not have the opportunity to recreate this social life, since they are usually kept on their own or in small and artificial groups. They tend to spend most of the day in trailers, in small electric-fenced areas or chained by their legs, with their freedom of movement severely limited and sometimes barely able to walk a step or two. Their daily exercise levels are considerably reduced. It is common to see elephants rocking, swaying and shaking constantly (stereotypical behaviour) to offset their lack of movement and lack of things to do in their lives. For more than a century elephants have been used in the entertainment industry (remember the U.S. blockbuster "Water for Elephants", Britney Spears’ "Circus" music video and the Spanish advert "Someday" by ONCE), elephants which in most cases come from, and live, in circuses.

Big Cats


In the wild:  Lions are highly sociable animals that live in groups of 2 to 20 individuals. They are very gregarious and are active at night, while during the day they rest or relate to others. Before the lionesses give birth they withdraw from the group for a few weeks. They live in territories of between 26-226 km2.

On the contrary, tigers in the wild remain solitary for most of the year. Males and females live together only during the mating season. The territory of a tiger can extend from 20 to 180 km2. They are hunters - their morphology is designed for movement (running, trotting, jumping, climbing, etc..) and they are also good swimmers so they live where they have access to water and are able to swim considerable distances. Tigers are in serious danger of extinction.

In captivity:  Along with tigers and other carnivores with large territories, lions are the animals which show higher levels of stress and psychological problems in captivity. The training methods of lions are particularly harsh and brutal as there are no "positive" methods to train predators of these characteristics. For decades lions have been used in the entertainment industry as a symbol of power, strength and beauty. ¿Do you want some examples? The advert for Metro Goldwyn Mayer itself that over the years has used several lions and the spot for Generali, a Spanish Insurance Company "The Lion of insurance”.

Normally several tigers are forced to live together and share a space also with other species of big cats. In captivity, these animals cannot carry out the physical exercise they need and they would perform in the wild. Tigers in captivity often suffer from stress, frustration and show stereotyped abnormal behaviours.

Just like lions, they are among the “favourite” animals of the entertainment industry and have, for several decades been used in all kinds of advertising and audiovisual productions (we can think of the American film "The Hangover"). In the wild, a tiger would never obey the orders of a human and the fact that these animals can "perform" means they have been trained to with unnatural and violent methods.

To avoid attacks and ease their handling, it is common to sedate them, amputate their claws or cut off their fangs. Declawing is a brutal and painful practice in which the third phalanx of each finger up to the joint is cut off, also amputating bone, nerves, ligaments and tendons.

The pain can be excruciating and chronic as it may damage nerves or the pads and modification of the foot's structure can lead to abnormalities in their gait and to back and joint problems. This removal may even affect the animal's personality, either making them more apathetic or more nervous, skittish and therefore aggressive. Some then try to defend themselves with their fangs (which is also common to pull out or sand down)

Also to avoid attacks, it is common to sedate animals. So it is not so obvious that the animal has been tranquilized, and to make it pose, sometimes they spray water on their faces or provoque them with pieces of meat.



In the wild:  Primates often live in complex social groups and have highly developed cognitive abilities. Baboons and chimpanzees are perhaps the two species of primates used most frequently in audiovisual productions. In the case of great apes, such as chimpanzees and orangutans, the problem is worse because we are dealing with species in danger of extinction. Orangutans, which used to live in almost all the forests of Asia, can now be found only on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. They are threatened by hunting, loss of natural habitat and due to their slow reproductive cycle - female orangutans, which in freedom live about 45 years, give birth every 7-8 years and have a maximum of three offspring in their life.

Chimpanzees have a wide, but discontinuous distribution in 25 countries of equatorial Africa, from western Senegal to eastern Tanzania. Their population is rapidly declining due to deforestation and hunting and they are in danger of extinction. In 1900 there were about 2 million specimens while today there are only 150,000 chimpanzees in freedom.

In captivity: These animals are the most used in the film industry and in advertising perhaps because of their resemblance to humans and because their cognitive abilities allow them to carry out tasks that are not possible with other animals (Who does not remember the Clint Eastwood film "Every Which Way but Loose"? or the advertisement "Subscribe to Geo" for the Geo magazine?).

Dressed and forced to act in human environments, primates have been for decades, victims of all kinds of mockery and jokes (we can think of the movie "Hangover Part II Now in Thailand!!" and the American television series "Animal Practice"). The primates used in the audiovisual industry are sometimes captured from their natural habitat, and are usually separated from their mothers at an early age and kept in isolation. The life they lead in captivity involves suffering from a long series of psychological and physical problems.

Several studies show that the use of apes in the entertainment industry has negative effects on the conservation of these species and even encourages illegal traffic.



In the wild: Zebras are social animals, and even in large herds create small groups whose family ties are long-lasting. Their territories are between 30-600 km2. Their defence reaction is flight and when they are cornered, kicking.

In captivity:  Zebras have also been used for years in films and commercials. But their life in captivity is very different from that enjoyed in freedom: they can be often observed housed in small stables or tied up alone and performing stereotyped rocking movements. As much as they look like horses, they are not domesticated animals but wild ones. Unnatural situations in which they can be found during a filming also cause stress and anxiety, but, even so, they still continue to be used in all types of audiovisual productions (as an example the "Cebraso" advertisement for Mixta)



In the wild:  These animals are agile climbers and spend most of their time alone and moving around in search of food. The territory of a female is between 3 and 40 km2.

In captivity:  In captivity, bears often show stereotyped behaviour, especially when they live in small enclosures with no stimulus or when they spend the nights locked indoors. They would need pools for bathing, structures for climbing, investigating and playing, but it's hard to offer all this in captivity. Bears used in films and commercials (remember the advert of Quechua "We all need heat"?) are usually "rented" even for circuses and private parties.



In the wild: Giraffes are peaceful gregarious ungulates that live in groups of several individuals and cover vast territories.

In captivity:  Their huge size makes transport particularly difficult and taming these animals is also very complicated. In captivity it is also extremely complex to recreate a habitat that can meet their basic needs (lots of space, tall trees, etc..). Despite all this and the great stress involved for giraffes to live in solitude and obey the orders of humans, these animals have been used for many years in all kinds of audiovisual production (just to take one example, the American film "Doctor Dolittle")

Seals and sea lions

León marino

In the wild: these animals are gregarious, specialized aquatic predators and some species live in large groups. They feed on a variety of fish, squid, crustaceans and starfish, some also eat penguins. All the species are very physically active and very fast swimmers. California seals immerse for 15 minutes at a depth of 100m. Although some species are sedentary, others change their habitat according to the season. All have very marked playful and exploratory behaviour.

In captivity:  Unlike what happens in the wild, these animals are often forced to live in isolation or in pairs and in small spaces with limited access to water.

Due to their biological characteristics, their highly developed social behaviour, and to how inappropriate frequent transportation is for them as well as their specific needs for feeding and space, it is impossible to keep these animals in captivity in an adequate way for their welfare. But because of their cognitive abilities and the attractiveness for the spectators, they are still used in films and audiovisual productions (recall the American film "Andre”).



In the wild: There are over 10,000 species of birds in the world: from specimens measuring only 5 cm to those which can reach 3 meters. Birds are warm-blooded animals have wings and are oviparous. The majority can fly (some, such as penguins, cannot).

In captivity:  Birds are used worldwide in audiovisual productions of different kinds. Their inclusion in film and advertising implies serious problems for their welfare, as they are forced to act and perform tricks completely unnatural for them and because in most cases they are often moved to very different environments from their natural habitat. Furthermore, when it is not required for the birds to fly as part of a show, they can "deactivate" flight through two different types of mutilation. Permanently by “pinioning” - which is the equivalent in a human of cutting off the hand, or "temporarily" -by repeated trimming of the wings. The training methods of these animals can be very variable, but most are similar to those used in circus animals. A parrot can be trained through punishment or negative reinforcement (when a bird is subjected to aversive stimuli, which may include violence, until the bird performs the act that is required). These methods are usually aggressive based on threats and fear to force the animal to comply with what is required. In addition, birds may also be subjected to food deprivation for hours before acting. Finally, the use of birds in movies has had the effect of increasing the demand of birds for pets. An example? The owls in Harry Potter: movies: seeing them on the big screen made many families decide to buy one thinking that they would be perfect pets and just a few years later rescue centres became full of them because people were unable to care for them at home.

Reptiles and amphibians


In the wild: Iguanas are a species of reptiles native to tropical wetlands of Central America, South America and the Caribbean. In their natural habitat iguanas mainly live more than a meter high in the trees of tropical forests. They are animals that depend on a warm environment in order to digest their food and are strictly herbivorous. They are very sensitive and in freedom, can live up to 15 years.

Turtles are an order of reptiles and are ectodermic animals; which means that their metabolic activity depends on the external or environmental temperature. Snakes are a suborder of reptiles characterized by the absence of legs and with a very long body.

These animal species are extremely sensitive to temperature changes and transport and although most people do not know this, it is extremely difficult for them (in particular for snakes) to adapt to terrariums or tanks and the barriers that these imply. Did you know for example that is common - and illegal – to dislocate the jaws of crocodiles so that they do not harm the people with whom they have to interact?

In captivity: From the transport and captivity of reptiles derive high rates of disease and mortality. Turtles do not stand up well to temperature changes and travel conditions and many die along the way.

Reptiles are not animals that can adjust to life in captivity; they should not be kept in terrariums or glass aquariums. In the wild, they never encounter transparent barriers and are unable to adapt to them. In captivity it is common to see these animals trying to escape as a sign of stress and they often have facial injuries from hitting themselves against the glass.

In captivity, reptiles and amphibians suffer high levels of stress and both iguanas and snakes usually die after one year. Extracting them from their habitat also represents disrupting their food chain, endangering many other animals along the way.

Despite all the problems, these animals are also used in all kinds of films and audiovisual production. In August 2010 at the airport in Barcelona, Volkswagen was promoting their latest car in a display case full of pythons which would be exposed to light, noise and the public for months. The head of advertising for the well known car brand stated: "having snakes makes people pay attention."



In the wild:  The wolf is a species of mammal of the carnivorous order. Originally these animals could be found in North America, Asia and the Middle East. Currently, mainly due to hunting, they only inhabit a very limited portion of that which was once their territory. They are predatory animals that live in herds in forests, mountains, tundra and prairies.

In captivity: Wolves in captivity usually suffer a lot of stress and show stereotyped unnatural behaviours (for example, circling up and down in the same area.) They live in much smaller groups than normal and in a very different habitat from the one they would have in freedom. From the second year of life, when they are in heat, they often "challenge" their breeder and trainer in an attempt to defend their hierarchical position within the herd.

These animals are also used continuously in commercials and film productions. For example; the advertisement for Quechua "We all need heat" or the movie "Man and Earth", “Wild Spain", "Wolf Mountains", "Covenant With Wolves".

Dolphins and orcas


In the wild: In the wild, dolphins and orcas live in close-knit groups, they help one another when needed and cooperate for fishing. They are highly intelligent animals who recognize the world around them through the use of echolocation. They usually swim between 95 and 160 miles a day and can reach speeds of up 45km/hour in the case of dolphins and 56 km/hour for killer whales. They are in fact very active animals; when they sleep, they do so with only half of their brain as they swim. In the wild, dolphins can live up to 50 years and orcas between 70 and 90, depending on whether it is male or female.

In captivity: In the tanks, these animals live in artificial groups and in such a state of constant stress that they often become so aggressive that it is necessary to administrate them with tranquilizers. In these concrete pools they can only swim in small circles and get bored having nothing new to discover. Dolphins and orcas in captivity tend to die at an early age and in general, their life expectancy is reduced by half compared to that of the specimens in freedom. Despite all this and the cruel methods of capturing these animals from the wild, both dolphins and killer whales have been featured in many films and television series. ¿Want examples? The Free Willy trilogy and the TV series and movie Flipper. By the way, did you know that the ex-trainer of the dolphins acting as Flipper is currently the most renowned activist against the captivity and training of these animals?

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