Pop superstar Katy Perry is fielding fire from wildlife advocates who say she should quit using exotic animals in her music videos and performances.
Yesterday, Chris Palmer, an Emmy Award-winning wildlife documentarian, wrote a letter on PETA’s blog calling on Perry to change her ways. He tells the story of Suzy, an elephant that stars in Perry’s new music video, “Roar.”
“Elephants don’t like loud noises, bright lights or hectic sets with dozens of people running around,” Palmer writes. “How did Suzy, a member of a threatened species from Africa, find herself next to Katy Perry on a deafening California set? She was violently captured from her free-roaming herd in Zimbabwe when she was 2 years old and shipped to the U.S., where she was most likely bound and beaten in order to make her perform without complaint. This video shows how it’s done in the industry.”
Exotic animals prowl, slither, and swim all over Hollywood, performing in everything from live publicity events and TV commercials to music videos and films. Sometimes things go terribly wrong. Last year 27 animals died during the making of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The HBO series Luck was canceled after three horses died during production.
The American Humane Association monitors animals in filmed media and holds the exclusive right to award its “No Animals Were Harmed” end-credit certification. The Association defends the use of animals in Perry’s “Roar” in a letter statement:
American Humane Association was on set for the filming of the above referenced music video, which used an elephant, a monkey, birds and a tiger. After reviewing the reports, we believe that the Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media were followed and that no animal was harmed in the making of this music video.
“Katy is a HUGE animal lover and so of course she wouldn't do anything to endanger or overly stress an animal!”
After quoting the AHA letter, the article states:
“See?! We knew that Katy was caring enough to make sure everything was done by the books. Insiders even said that it was the animals that dictated the pace of the shoot, so the animals came first! Way to be a friend to the animals, Katy!! RAWR!!!
Filmmaker Palmer says the use of an elephant in Perry’s video is incongruous with the message in her song.
“It's ironic that Katy's song "Roar" is about female empowerment since elephants are matriarchal—the females stick together for life in the wild, for up to 70 years. Suzy, on the other hand, has spent 10 of the last 20 years deprived of the companionship of any other elephants. She is stored like a studio prop and trotted out at the whim of producers, directors and stars. The reason I'm singling out Katy is because this isn't her first time making a mockery of these highly intelligent animals—earlier, she had made her grand entrance at a gossip blogger's birthday party riding on the back of an elephant.”
He ends the letter with a plea for Perry to read it.
“I hope Katy will find a few minutes to read this piece. I don't imagine that she's mean—just distracted. Only when stars, directors and producers stop forcing exotic animals onto soundstages will these sensitive and sophisticated animals get a reprieve. Katy Perry may be one of the biggest pop stars in the world, but next to that sad elephant, she looks like a very small person.”