THR: Animal Humane Association complicit in hundreds of on-set animal deaths


I just read the most depressing article ever. I couldn’t even finish reading, quite honestly. It was that sad. The Hollywood Reporter has a lengthy investigative story about the American Humane Association and their “No Animals Were Harmed” tag on every major American film production. Apparently, the AHA has a very cozy relationship with Hollywood these days, and the animal rights people are more worried about keeping their relationships with producers rather than the welfare of the animals. CB already discussed the terrible incident during the production of The Hobbit, and THR cites several other examples. Like, the real tiger (named King) used during Life of Pi almost drowned in a tank during production and the AHA actively participated in a cover-up of the incident. You can read the whole story here if you want, but just heed my warning: the article is going to make you sick and/or cry. Here’s the Life of Pi story, plus more examples of the AHA turning a blind eye to animal deaths:

American Humane Association monitor Gina Johnson confided in an email to a colleague on April 7, 2011, about the star tiger in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. While many scenes featuring “Richard Parker,” the Bengal tiger who shares a lifeboat with a boy lost at sea, were created using CGI technology, King, very much a real animal, was employed when the digital version wouldn’t suffice. “This one take with him just went really bad and he got lost trying to swim to the side,” Johnson wrote. “Damn near drowned.”

King’s trainer eventually snagged him with a catch rope and dragged him to one side of the tank, where he scrambled out to safety.

“I think this goes without saying but DON’T MENTION IT TO ANYONE, ESPECIALLY THE OFFICE!” Johnson continued in the email, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. “I have downplayed the f— out of it.”

As a representative of the American Humane Association — the grantor of the familiar “No Animals Were Harmed” trademark accreditation seen at the end of film and TV credits — it was Johnson’s job to monitor the welfare of the animals used in the production filmed in Taiwan. What’s more, Johnson had a secret: She was intimately involved with a high-ranking production exec on Pi. (AHA’s management subsequently became aware of both the relationship and her email about the tiger incident, which others involved with the production have described in far less dire terms.) Still, Pi, which went on to earn four Oscars and $609 million in global box office, was awarded the “No Animals Were Harmed” credit.

More examples:

A Husky dog was punched repeatedly in its diaphragm on Disney’s 2006 Antarctic sledding movie Eight Below, starring Paul Walker, and a chipmunk was fatally squashed in Paramount’s 2006 Matthew McConaughey-Sarah Jessica Parker romantic comedy Failure to Launch. In 2003, the AHA chose not to publicly speak of the dozens of dead fish and squid that washed up on shore over four days during the filming of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Crewmembers had taken no precautions to protect marine life when they set off special-effects explosions in the ocean, according to the AHA rep on set.

And the list goes on: An elderly giraffe died on Sony’s 2011 Zookeeper set and dogs suffering from bloat and cancer died during the production of New Regency’s Marmaduke and The Weinstein Co.’s Our Idiot Brother, respectively (an AHA spokesman confirms the dogs had bloat and says the cancer “was not work-related”). In March, a 5-foot-long shark died after being placed in a small inflatable pool during a Kmart commercial shoot in Van Nuys.

All of these productions had AHA monitors on set.

“It’s fascinating and ironic: From being the protectors of animals they’ve become complicit to animal cruelty,” says Bob Ferber, a veteran L.A. City Attorney’s office prosecutor who founded and supervised its Animal Protection Unit until retiring in March.

[From The Hollywood Reporter]

There are also some terrible horse stories in the article, but I didn’t want to make everyone suicidal today. Ugh. They need to come up with a better system. Producers and animal-rights advocates need to find a way to work together to treat animal actors with the same kind of respect and comfort with which they treat human actors. Enough. I don’t ever want to read about gentle horses being impaled by runaway movie wagons or drowning tigers ever, EVER again.


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84 Responses to “THR: Animal Humane Association complicit in hundreds of on-set animal deaths”

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  1. Eve says:

    Nope. Won’t read it.

    I’m already depressive and if I read this I’m certain I’ll be even more depressed (and yes, suicidal — this is *NOT* a hyperbolic statement).

    Outta here.

    • TheOriginalKitten says:

      I wish I could un-read 🙁

      So upsetting, but I have to give props to Kaiser for covering this.
      I now know which movies featuring animals I will refuse to watch.

      • Samtha says:

        Can you (or some other generous soul!) list the movies so those of us who are sensitive to this sort of thing don’t have to read the article?

      • Eve says:

        Skimmed the article to tell you this:

        The Hobbit trilogy: apparently, many animals died during the making of it;

        Life of Pi: The tiger almost drowned;

        Marmaduke and Our Idiot Brother: dogs had bloat and cancer (but the producers claim it wasn’t “work” related);

        Zookeeper: A giraffe died;

        Eight Below: A dog was repeatedly punched in its diaphragm;

        Failure to Launch: A chipmunk was fatally squashed;

        Pirates of the Caribbean — The Curse of the Black Pearl: dozens of dead fish and squid.

        Damn it, Samtha, I ended up reading a way more than I wanted.

      • Samtha says:

        @Eve, thanks for reading through it and posting the list. How sad. 🙁

      • kimmmy says:

        Eight Below is one of my guilty pleasure movies. Ugh, I can’t even bear to read that article. This summary was bad enough. =/

      • karen says:

        I long ago gave up watching movies with animals..suprised Water for Elephants isn’t on the list.

        This is why it is wrong that animals get shot when they attack their keepers. We just dont see the day to day cruelty many of them have to endure.

        I also long ago gave up visiting zoos.

    • Evie says:

      Ditto, Eve. Anytime I read things like this it just crawls into my soul and won’t come out. How horrible for these poor animals!!!

    • LadyMTL says:

      Yeah, I’m not reading it either. I get so sad whenever I see / hear about animals being mistreated or harmed (even if it’s accidental) that I can’t imagine how gut-wrenching the article must be. Poor things.

    • An says:

      I won’t read it either. Animal cruelty pisses me off so bad and there are NO excuses. The hollywood situation needs to be sorted out ASAP.

    • drea says:

      I’m saving it to read on another day, when I don’t already have a headache. They should be sued. Everyone involved should be fired. Hell, scrap the AHA and build a new agency from scratch. They’re tainted now.

    • bluhare says:

      I won’t read it either; but, Eve, totally relate on the depression. Ugh.

  2. BreeinSEA says:

    The chipmunk seemed like a usual roadkill story (was there a scene w a chipmunk???) but the rest are ridiculous. I despise the tiger story.

    • TheOriginalKitten says:

      It was a squirrel I believe but yeah-I was wondering that too…
      I love squirrels but they often meet their fate as roadkill and not necessarily by the driver’s fault. Sometimes the little guys double-back into the road etc.

    • mayamae says:

      Tigers are great swimmers by nature. It would take such gross negligence to almost drown the poor thing.

  3. Amelia says:

    So f*cking angry right now.
    I just can’t with this. Call me sick, tell me I’ve got to sort out my priorities, but whenever I read about animal cruelty stories, I lose it and get upset to a degree that I find difficult to replicate whenever I hear stories about human suffering.

    • TheOriginalKitten says:

      Me too, Amelia. Completely.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      I think it’s because they’re so innocent. The humans in the movie had a choice, not that they deserved to be injured or die for it, but they knew what they were getting into. The actors are protected from anything dangerous by the stunt people. The animals just trust their trainers and the people around them.

      • Diana Prince says:

        Exactly. Animals have no choice in this matter. And when he revolt they get put down.

        I just will understand why animals are snatched from their homes to be put through something so unnatural.

        I see the commercials for the poor animals in shelters or around suffering I burst into tears. I just can’t help it.

    • hadleyb says:

      Me too. Me too.

      I have not gone to see any of these movies or bought any DVD’s. Actually, I rarely go the movies anymore in the past 5 years.

      This is making me want to give it up totally. Greed is destroying the Earth, animals and people and no one cares because money hungry corporations just want more and more.

      When everything is ruined, they can keep warm with their billions by throwing it in the fireplace because that’s all they will have left.

    • bluhare says:

      Me too, Amelia. And I agree GoodNames.

    • Tee says:

      There’s nothing sick about your concern. It’s your concern that keeps you from ending up like those callous d*uches who treat animal lives so carelessly. If it were an actor that nearly drowned you’d bet there will be bigger concern than sweeping under the rug. Human production crews are afforded the care and conditions that allow them to work and live safely on the Hobbit. Why can’t the same be afforded to animals? Common courtesy dictates that you’d at least show a bit of respect to all manner of life. But, look at this:

      “The timeline is also dubious, because the wranglers who stepped forward to identify themselves to the press—Chris Langridge, Lynn Langridge and Johnny Smythe—had all complained about the conditions of the animals during 2011, and were either fired for arguing with their bosses, or quit in frustration after getting no reply from management about the letters they sent. Letters about horses with broken backs and sliced-open legs, and mysterious cover-ups on autopsy reports.”

      It isn’t as though they management wasn’t aware of the issue. It wasn’t as though it was a ludicrously expensive problem. No, it was something that could have been solved with just some CARE. CONCERN. Actual human empathy. But the only thing these people care about is making sure the problem never makes it to the news:

      “Johnny Smythe had initially tried to get press attention on the horse deaths in 2011, but it never got out of a local paper in New Zealand.”

      Boycotting this sh*tty movie.

      /sorry I’m too angry to try and moderate my words right now.

    • Linda says:

      Me too! Big time! I can’t even stand it when people yank their dogs’ leashes on the dog trail around here. I want to tell them off!

  4. Erinn says:

    Oh God. Bloat is suuuuch a serious issue. Whoever was the trainer or owner of these dogs must have been complete morons. We have a pointer named Juno. (Yes I’m going to be one of those people who shove puppy pictures at you guys — ) We were told by the breeder we have to watch out for bloat in this breed.

    You have to be super careful of spacing out feedings and exercise, and really watching for the signs of bloat because it can progress pretty quickly. Bloat has a 50% mortality rate. Deep chested dogs are especially susceptible to bloat. So Danes, Shepherds, Standard Poodles, etc are all at a much higher risk of developing bloat. Any trainer that is not aware of this risk is incredibly dangerous in this kind of scenario. I mean, I’m just

    This whole article is incredibly sad. I hate to think that all of these deaths were so preventable.

    • TheOriginalKitten says:

      +1 to everything you said but I just had to add: your pup is adorable! I love him in his sweater ♥

      • Erinn says:

        Ahahah, it’s actually a girl. I was not ‘allowed’ to buy her a pink sweater as the Mr. refused to take her out in the bright pink one I wanted to get. So I compromised and found a pretty, wintery blue one. <3

    • NYC_girl says:

      Love the pic! The ears!! Very close family friends had a German shorthair pointer named Jessie; she was the sweetest dog I have ever known. They have always owned larger dogs like German shepherds and Airedales but Jessie was my favorite. I miss her!

      • Erinn says:

        They’re gorgeous dogs. She’s in love with our elderly cat – she chases and picks on the one that’s about her age (though they both instigate it) but when the elderly one comes in from outside, Juno just fawns over her.

        We were looking at Shepherds, and were really close to getting an Airedale actually, but nobody had any available in the area, and the shelters near us luckily barely had any dogs at the time. Happened upon an add for this furball and here we are.

      • Louise says:

        + 1000. We also have a german short hair pointer, and were read the riot act about bloat by the breeder. We’ve got a bowl with posts in it to slow his eating down, we space his feedings out, we’re very careful not to feed him a meal too close to exercise, etc etc etc. Anyone trusted with caring for any dog prone to this should have been taking these kinds of precautions. Seriously, this isn’t just a bad case of gas – their stomachs can (and often do) twist on the long axis. It seems like it would be a horrible way to die.

    • V4Real says:

      I told myself I wasn’t going to read this but I clicked on it anyways. Who the hell punches a dog; how do you justify this inhumane act? I loved the movie Eight Below because it showed a man who was willing to risk his life to get back to his dogs who were like family to him. Now I can never look at the movie in the same light again, ever.

      • Erinn says:

        Yeah, exactly. I’ve had to shove Juno away from the wood stove (she seems to think that any sticks or log in the home are hers, and she was ready to go and retrieve one as I was making a fire the other night) but that was a case of “holy shit, you’re going to hurt yourself!” and was a very light shove because she’s so lanky and amount of pressure will knock her off balance if she’s not expecting it.

        To close your fist and punch a dog – there’s absolutely no excuse unless said dog is currently trying to rip your throat out.

    • drea says:

      Dogggiieeeee! Sorry, I can’t help it. Any time you feel like sticking a cute puppy pic in your comments, just go ahead, I’m all for it.

    • blue marie says:

      Bloat is how my cousin lost her bulldog. She got him from a breeder and the breeder never said a word about it being prevalent in those types of dogs, she had to learn it from the vet AFTER he passed away. I wish I had a photo to show you guys, he was such a wonderful dog and cute to boot.

      • Erinn says:

        It’s such a sad thing to happen. I love bulldogs. My cousin is in her final year of agriculture college, and will be applying to vet school for the fall, so she gave me the whole lecture about bloat because of her classes, and the fact that she has a standard poodle. It’s especially scary because for someone who has never heard of it, it really is just so sudden and I mean, you wouldn’t think that feeding too close to exercise or whatever would really be a problem. It just seems like such a silly thing to have to worry about.

    • Anners says:

      Your pics made my day – we had an adorable pointer named Gemini (came with the name) and it’s been almost 10 years and I still miss her like crazy. They are the sweetest/craziest dogs!

      • Erinn says:

        They’re insane. Honestly, I was not expecting the level of crazy from this dog. But she’s SO sweet that it just makes up for it. I’m looking forward to getting past the teenager phase.

    • JustaGirl says:

      Such a cute puppy!

      I worry about bloat with my boy too. It’s prevalent in his breed. We had a GSD that had bloat. After a $5,000 surgery, she was okay, but it’s not an experience I’d care to repeat! We almost lost her. She went to being perfectly fine that night before we went to sleep to knocking on death’s door when we woke up 7 hours later. Scary!

    • Ange says:

      Such a gorgeous dog! I had a Great Dane named Mouse back in the day and I read obsessively about bloat before I adopted her. It meant getting up at 5am so I could space out her morning walk and feeding before work but it was a choice I made. Anyone who makes a living managing that breed and lets them get bloat is actively cruel, there’s no way you can claim ignorance of it.

    • melior says:

      OMG! Now I want one!

  5. NYC_girl says:

    I can’t read this. Animal cruelty makes me shake with rage, especially in this city where there are so many stories of dog fighting and neglect. There was a story in the paper a few weeks ago about a 13 year old girl who tossed a neighbor’s kitten into a busy intersection. The police questioned her and she was like, “So?” Don’t even get me started on the horse-drawn carriages near Central Park. I am enraged every time I see one esp in 90 degree heat.

    • Eve says:

      ARRRRGH! I promised myself I wouldn’t check this thread again but I did and now I can’t unread your story. That’s what I feared the most: the stories about animal cruelty posters would tell because all of us have at least one (or, like myself, MANY) to tell.

      It angers me so much this girl probably won’t ever face anything for this (I assume the cat was ran over).

      So angry right now I think my head is going to explode.

      • NYC_girl says:

        Apparently the kitten was hit, and survived for a while. My boyfriend’s mother lives near where the girl did this; I wanted to find her and toss HER into traffic. I just can’t tolerate animal cruelty. I did not have a good experience adopting a cat from the ASPCA a few years ago, but I know they expose puppy mills and rescue the animals. I often can’t believe what humans are capable of. It scares me. I always adopt from shelters and I would never “purchase” an animal from a pet store. If I can provide a good life for at least one animal, at least I feel I am doing something.

  6. Kiddo says:

    According to the article, it sounds like they are fraudulent in their mission. Their non profit status should be revoked as a start. I’ve never donated to them, but anyone who has should cease. This really pisses me off.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      I have donated to them and never will again.

    • Blanster says:

      I’m sorry to say this whole story doesn’t surprise me at all. We contacted AHA back in 1971 about our local humane society which wasn’t being humane in the treatment of animals in its care. They blew us off. We then contacted HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) and they sent a rep to talk to us and work with us. I’ve supported HSUS ever since and while I didn’t despise AHA, I do now. They’re the older more conservative animal welfare group that is more concerned with keeping the money coming in to keep their management salaries than their mission. Disgusting.

  7. luna says:

    I didn’t know about The Hobbit until now. It shocked me. 27 animals? I love Peter Jackson and think he’s a genius for making LOTR trilogy but reading this makes me feel so conflicted now.

    • lenje says:

      Likewise here. I like the first Hobbit movie, and Life of Pi has been one of my most favorite movies (and I adore Ang Lee). This really breaks my heart.

    • bluhare says:

      I’d read about the Hobbit. There was an attempt at a boycott when it opened.

      • Tig says:

        If memory serves, the animal deaths associated with The Hobbit surfaced last year. The party line was that these animals- sheep, goats(?)- were the responsibility of an independent contractor who someone had contracted with, blah blah. Even Peter Jackson went on the offensive.
        Does anyone know if this is the same organization which oversaw the filming of War Horse? God, I hope not! Some of those scenes were almost unendurable. But Steven S was always asserting the horse came first.

      • mayamae says:

        It seems like we are helpless in these situations, but we’re not. Don’t forget the Dustin Hoffman HBO series “Luck” that was cancelled after horse deaths. We can make an impact when we spread the word.

  8. Meggie says:

    I read this yesterday. Humanity is not so humane when it comes to the bottom line and it makes me sick to my stomach. I hold my little fur baby tighter and can’t imagine the pain that we put them through. I dislike so much of our species and this kind of stuff cements it.

  9. Thiajoka says:

    I’m glad I read the comments first. Will not read the article. I already suspected this practice anyway. Jeebus, in today’s day and age, they could CGI any animal involvement!

  10. blue marie says:

    There are no words for the level of bullsh-t that’s described in this article, those poor animals.

  11. Lindy79 says:

    I’ve often watched movies and been really uncomfortable and thought “how could they have done that without harming the animals?”.
    I was hoping I was just being paranoid. I sincerely hope this exposé causes things to change as this is stomach churning.

  12. June says:

    How can we fight back?

    • Eve says:

      I’ll do my very best to avoid watching the movies listed here — and let people know why I’m not watching them. As many people as I can find/who will listen.

      I, for one, already planned NOT to see any of The Hobbit movies (which will be hard because Cumberbatch plays Smaug/Necromancer in them), but now there are more movies added to the list.

      This is infuriating for so many reasons: I’m one of those dumbasses who wait for the “No animals were harmed during the making of this film” sign at the end of the credits. Boy, do I feel like a fool right now…

      People can (and will) choose to be in movies/tv. Animals can’t. Therefore their suffering should NEVER be an option.

      My god, I’m so angry right now.

      • Anners says:

        The other (more awful) thing I’ve read is that sometimes they get away with posting the “no animals harmed during filming” because the animals were actually beaten into submission during their training phase (pre-filming if you will). It actually means very little, which breaks my heart.

      • Eve says:

        Oh, good grief! I had wondered about that (beaten into submission), too. The confirmation it happens doesn’t even surprise me anymore.

    • Blanster says:

      Go comment on their Facebook page. Threaten to quit donating to them. That will get their attention if hundreds/thousands do it. I see people are doing it already.

  13. Melissa Folino says:

    So sad

  14. HoustonGrl says:

    Wow, thanks for sharing this info. I will at least plan to write this organization.

  15. Madpoe says:

    Note to Animal Kingdom: FIGHT BACK!
    Stomach churning how animals are treated to entertain us
    that’ll cost some of them their lives!
    Aren’t we so magnificent that we just cant use CGI and leave the animals alone?

  16. Grant says:


  17. Whateverworksforyou says:

    Guess a select few “gentle horses” are more deserving of a life free of needless suffering than a bunch of gross factory farm animals.

    • Eve says:

      Please, don’t go there. Because that’s heartbreaking for many of us, too.

      These things aren’t mutually exclusive. People can care about both. But the post’s topic is animal cruelty in Hollywood and AHA’s compliance with it.

    • bluhare says:

      And apparently you think that we can only care about one thing? Right.

      Amen, Eve.

    • mayamae says:

      Well, I’m a vegetarian so that doesn’t really fly. I know many people who are ethically fine with eating meat, yet uncomfortable with factory farming. It’s important to spread the word, but when you’re a vegetarian, it tends to irritate people.

      A good documentary on factory farms – Death on a Factory Farm – it aired maybe 5 years ago on HBO.

      • Whateverworksforyou says:

        I guess that’s what really bothers me. Attempt to start a discussion about the animal suffering inherent in industrial meat production, and you’re “imposing your views on other people”. But those same people will get up in arms on the behalf of these animals–when really, it’s virtually guaranteed that the squished hamster had a “happier” existence of less suffering and more freedom than any given pig (an animal with a dog-like level intelligence) on a CAFO.

  18. eliza says:

    Can’t read stories like this. I love animals tooooooo much.

  19. Satiah says:

    Ugh, so depressing. I saw the trailer to ‘black fish’ yesterday and now reading about this is just too much. Especially the part about an elderly giraffe dying!Thanks for bringing some awareness to these issues, celebitchy!

  20. Ana says:

    OMG why didn’t you tell me there would be pictures!!!??? Omg Omg This is so horrible and I couldn’t even read the whole thing. The people involved deserve to go to a special place in hell. I think it should be forbidden to use any kind of animals (including dogs and cats) in the making of movies and tv shows…

    • bluhare says:

      I used to volunteer for an animal sanctuary and when I think I’ve heard it all, something else comes up.

      I’m like Eve; I’ve been depressed lately and this stuff gets seared into my soul at times like this. But people need to know that entertainment isn’t a warm and fluffy business for animals.

  21. Dimebox says:

    Kaiser, I add my voice to those who have thanked you for covering this. Our family business is a ranch with many animals. (Outside of Dimebox, Texas) We raise cattle and miniature donkeys, but also have horses, fainting goats, cow dogs, and barn cats in our care. The animals’ welfare always comes first no matter the weather. In the heat of summer or during winter freezes we first take care of them and that covers all animals, even migratory birds. (my husband takes pride in the grasses and reeds he has planted by ponds to protect waterfowl) I can drive a tractor with the best and take pride in being able to haul hay, feed, and even water during droughts. It is a moral imperative and not just a financial one. Anyone who has animals in their care should be willing to sacrifice time and money to see to their welfare. We are, and our Vet bills reflect it. I hope that information about the filming conditions of specific movies gets out in the future in enough time to affect their box office. The information about animals being neglected and even killed is truly sickening.

    • bluhare says:

      I wish all meat producers were like you guys.

      And I’m commenting up a storm to keep this on the front page. Because if people don’t know nothing will happen.

      • Dimebox says:

        Thank you. We work hard to be responsible and ethical stewards of both our land and animals. It makes perfect sense to me that psychopaths and serial killers usually have cruelty to animals in their backgrounds.

  22. Skye says:

    Animals are NOT actors… that implies they somehow have some choice in the matter, or desire to act in the first place. They are simply being used to entertain humans. In plenty of cases, this should not happen at all and when it does, we owe them the utmost level of care, comfort and protection. SHAME SHAME SHAME on the AHA for whitewashing these tragedies with their (now meaningless) seal of approval.

  23. TherapyCranes says:

    Some of these seem like it wasn’t the movies fault. An old giraffe dies? A dog with cancer dies? Eh, it’s sad but these things happen.. However the shark dying and the tiger almost drowning makes me super upset. These are obvious cases of neglect.

    Oh.. I just read some of that article. “On Paramount’s Failure to Launch, a handler dropped a chipmunk, stepped on it and killed it. ”


  24. Reid05 says:

    Yes, props to Kaiser for writing this post. Truly terrible. I would love for the people involved in these movies, ie. directors and actors, to acknowledge and speak out against the irresponsibility of the AHA and others who are supposed to be protecting these amazing creatures!

  25. Jaxx says:

    I know it is horrible to think about these things happening, but don’t think we are powerless to do something about it. If every person who is upset here writes an email to those responsible, telling them their movie AND future movies under their control will not be viewed in your house, believe me they will pay attention. And then, if you get five sympathetic, animal loving friends to also write you’ll get the snowball effect.

    I used to work in customer service and if we got one complaint letter we paid little attention beyond soothing that particular customer. But if we got five letters it went into an action file. Because statistically five letters means there are many more than that out there who are upset by the same situation but don’t write in. Upper management didn’t want it to snowball. Changes were always made. When their bottom line is threatened, they listen.

    Speak up. It matters.

  26. Pumpkin Pie says:

    I would call for clear rules and monitoring animals’ treatment on movie sets to make sure that animals are not hurt or die because they are mistreated/tortured. Boycotting wouldn’t help on the long term, people forget.