After exploiting live elephants on Westworld, the bear on Silicon Valley, the tiger on Vice Principals, the lion on The Leftovers, and a monkey in I Know This Much Is True, HBO now faces new whistleblower allegations that distressed horses aren’t being provided with adequate water or rest while being forced to pull carriages for long hours in scorching heat on the set of The Gilded Age—and that one horse even broke away from a wrangler and trampled an actor.
This news comes just weeks after a horse collapsed and died while filming a carriage scene on set. It’s time HBO got the memo: Animals aren’t looking for their “15 minutes of fame.” In fact, they’re desperate to avoid it. We had hoped that when Luck was canceled after at least three horses died during filming, the network would finally start to do right by animals. But in the years since, including in 2022, it has continued to exploit them.
PETA has revealed what happens to animals at training compounds—the deplorable conditions, the whippings, and the deaths—but they’re still being rented, crated, and manipulated for HBO’s cameras. The network has continued to perpetuate the dangerous idea that animals are happy on crowded film and television production sets, when in reality, their physical and instinctual needs are completely thwarted.
When network giants like HBO dress up monkeys or force older horses to pull heavy carriages in extreme weather for TV shows, it sends the dangerous and regressive message that animals are ours to use and control.
Horses like the one who died on the set of The Gilded Age are historically among the animals most commonly injured and killed when used for film and television, and they’re the ones about whom we receive the most on-set whistleblower complaints.
Capuchin monkeys like the one used for I Know This Much Is True are intelligent and highly social animals who in nature live in groups and spend most of their time in trees. At training compounds, however, animals used for television or film are generally relegated to cramped enclosures—a far cry from their natural habitats.
Tell HBO to get on the right side of this issue by enacting a policy against using real animals. Computed-generated imagery and animatronics can depict animals humanely and responsibly, and given the lifelike gorilla in Peacemaker, the hyper-realistic dragons in Game of Thrones, the elephant in Watchmen, and even the tiger in Westworld, the network already knows this much is true. And when digital effects may not be possible, productions must rework scripts to omit the use of animals.
Use the form below to contact HBO on Twitter and ask that it pledge to stop exploiting animals!