Robert Pattinson movie at centre of animal cruelty storm

  • @guyadams

Most movie stars wait for either an invitation to park their bottom on Oprah's sofa or the publication of a warts-and-all autobiography to share the details of their abusive childhood. But Tai is no ordinary movie star. For starters, she is an elephant.

The animal, who spent recent weeks touring the world with Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon to promote her new film Water For Elephants, is nonetheless at the centre of a furious PR battle after allegations she was mistreated by trainers.

An undercover video released by the lobby group Animal Defenders International (ADI) appears to show Tai being given electric shocks and beaten with hooks at the Californian ranch where she spent her youth. It is urging audiences to boycott the film.

The footage was obtained six years ago, as part of what ADI says is a long-running investigation into the ranch's owners, Have Trunk Will Travel, a firm which supplies elephants to film-makers. It appears to have been heavily edited before release, with short clips of alleged cruelty spliced together with little context, save for sombre music.

That will not prevent the video sitting uncomfortably with audiences of Water For Elephants, a depression-era tale about a travelling circus which partly focuses on animal cruelty.

The film's distributor, 20th Century Fox, said it was "disturbed and saddened" at the content of ADI's video.

Have Trunk Will Travel, meanwhile, described ADI as an "extremist organisation" with a history of using dishonest means to achieve PR goals.