Life of Pi director defends tiger incident as 'an accident'

MATT BUNGARD
Last updated 16:17 02/12/2013

The American Humane Association has been accused of negligence in its role of monitoring animal welfare on movie sets.

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Life of Pi director Ang Lee has conceded that there was an incident on set with a tiger, saying "it was an accident".

The tiger, named King, is reported to have almost drowned during a take that went wrong when the film was shooting last year. "The crew worked hard to rescue the tiger and then showed him a lot of care, giving him five-star treatment," Lee told reporters in Taiwan.

The incident was exposed in an email by American Humane Association monitor Gina Johnson, who wrote that "we almost f---ing killed King in the water tank. This one take with him went really bad and he got lost trying to swim to the side. Damn near drowned."

The film received the 'No Animals Were Harmed' label when it was released, which is now coming under scrutiny from both the public as well as animal rights groups.

Despite the email, as well as the statements from the director, a Fox spokeperson downplayed the incident, telling reporters that "the tiger, King, was never harmed and did not 'nearly drown' during the production".

The new director of AHA's No Animals Were Harmed program, Doctor S. Kwane Stewart, agreed with this view, saying that Johnson "probably overreacted".

"Was it a close call? What is indisputable was that no harm came to King. Could you argue he had a moment? But he continued to work," Dr Stewart said. It is understood Johnson is no longer associated with AHA.

A statement from the association said that "far from allowing abuse or neglect to occur, we (AHA) have a remarkably high safety record of 99.98 per cent on set".

The group has come under attack earlier, with an expose from The Hollywood Reporter stating that 27 animals were killed during filming of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and in spite of this, the film was still awarded the 'No Animals Were Harmed' credit.

Life of Pi was a major success across the world, grossing over $600 million and hauling in four Academy Awards.

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- The Age

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