By 3news.co.nz staff
In a sad case of art imitating life, a Hollywood blockbuster has been hit by allegations of animal cruelty.
Water For Elephants tells the story of an abused circus animal, but video has been released which seems to shows animals – including 45-year-old Asian elephant Thai - being used in the film being stunned and hit with metal hooks, The Guardian reported.
Animal Defenders International (ADI) claims Thai is the elephant that appears to cry out while performing a headstand in the video.
The video was allegedly shot in 2005.
Water For Elephants, which stars Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz, is a romantic drama about a circus vet set in the depression era. It contains fictional scenes of animal cruelty and shows animals performing various tricks.
"We were uncomfortable with the message of this film, but the more we saw the repeated assertions that this elephant has been treated with love and affection and never been abused, we realised that we had to get the truth out. The public, the stars and the film-makers have been duped,” ADI chief executive Jan Creamer told The Guardian.
“This poor elephant was trained to do the very tricks you see in the film by being given electric shocks."
But Gary and Kari Johnson of Have Trunk Will Travel told the newspaper they are “unwavering” in their commitment to elephants.
“We stand by our care and training methods. We are proud of our contributions to elephant welfare and conservation.”
The pair accuse “animal rights extremist groups” of using Thai’s role in Water For Elephants as a vehicle to “take advantage of her celebrity to further their efforts to remove elephants and all exotic animals from entertainment”.
“These groups have no basis of knowledge or experience working with elephants.”
They say none of the footage was taken during Thai’s training for the movie.
Warning: The video contains images of alleged animal abuse
Watch the video for the full report