Most Cruel Things Done to Animals in the Entertainment Industry
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Most Cruel Things Done to Animals in the Entertainment Industry

What are some of the cruel things people do to animals.? Are animals hurt when they are used in making movies? Are horses hurt in horse racing? Why is swimming with the dolphins considered cruel? Is having a picture taken with a koala bear cruel? What is a dancing bear, is this animal abuse? Learn about some of the ways animals are abused for the sake of entertainment.

I recently wrote several articles on cruelty to animals, from that of cruelty to pets, farm animals, and wildlife. It was pointed out that I had missed one area of cruelty; cruelty to animals in the entertainment industry.

Horse Racing

There are many types of horse racing, some more cruel than others. Certainly horses enjoy racing, but this does not negate some of the cruelty involved in getting horses ready to race. Some thoroughbreds are ridden as late yearlings, while many other horses would not even start training until age three, or four. This puts strain on their legs which is then made worse by the fact that as two year olds they are races in short distance sprints. Running short distances at maximum speed is very hard on a young horse's legs.

In North America race horses are almost exclusively stabled at the race track for the racing season, kept in tiny stalls for most of the day, not only is this boring, but it weakens bone density. In the USA alone over 800 racehorses die from fatal injuries on the race track, many more are injured or otherwise “culled” as not being good enough.

National hunt racing, formerly referred to as steeplechase racing, is more cruel than flat racing, with many horses dying on the track, as such it is mostly only older geldings that are used in this form of racing.

Dog Racing

Greyhound racing is becoming less popular in some areas than it once was. Thousands of dogs die as a result of injury or exhaustion, many others are killed because they are not fast enough. There is even a term “Playing the piano” given for one cruel way that the dogs sometimes are killed; hung by their necks, with their front legs moving as though playing a piano. This industry produces far more dogs than are needed for racing, and although adopt-a-greyhound rescue centers do exist, they are not able to help the majority of culled dogs.


Horses, cattle, and sometimes other animals are often subject to cruel treatment at rodeos. If you look at the bucking horses in particular you will note a strap tightened around the horse, just in front of its hind legs, this is to cause discomfort and make it buck. You will also notice the cowboys wear sharp spurs and earn points for raking their spurs over the shoulders of the horse. Many calves suffer injury, and stress, when used in roping events. Occasionally they even break their necks or legs. In chuckwagon races, it is not uncommon for horses to get injured or die during a race.

There are also many rodeo events that many people are unaware of, which case great stress to the animals, such as wild pony racing.

Fighting Events

There are many events that involve pitting one animal against another, for entertainment. Cockfighting and dog fighting are the best known, however in some places even horses are put together to fight for the entertainment of the crowd; stallions are put in an arena, with mares nearby, the stallions fight each other.

Of course some fighting events, such as bullfighting, are man versus animal.

Other fighting events involve animals of different species and are called “baiting” such as dogs vs badgers, or dogs vs bulls or mules, in which case the bull or mule is often tied up. Many of these events are illegal.

Animals Used in Movies and Television

There have been many cases where animals were made to suffer for media entertainment. Trip wires have been used to cause horses to fall in movies such as Reds and Rambo III, in one case during the filming of The Thirteenth Warrior, a horse had its leg cut open by the wires and had to be put down.. It has been reported that man animals were brutalized during the filming of Heaven's Gate, including a horse who had an explosive set off underneath it. During the filming of the movie Ben Hur over a hundred horses reportedly died, most during the chariot race scene. The list goes on.  Source.

In other cases animals were put in false situations when nature documentaries were filmed. In the Disney documentary, White Wilderness, the lemmings did not just jump over a cliff, they were forced over, and others were flung over by a machine built by the crew, the scene itself was filmed in Calgary, Alberta, where lemmings are not normally found.

Swimming with the Dolphins

Dolphins, and other marine life, are usually covered with a slime coat that protects their skin. When this is touched it rubs off leaving the animal vulnerable for diseases. Additionally some dolphins are kept in very small pools for the sole purpose of entertainment.


Cruelty to animals has been a huge issue for circuses. The animals, most particularly the elephants, have very unnatural lives, they travel constantly, do not get to enjoy any sort of freedom, and abuse in training is not uncommon.

Dancing Bears

These are bears that are caught wild when they are young, taken from their mothers, and used for entertainment. The bears are muzzled and have a ring through their nose, they are prodded with a stick to “dance”, often for the entertainment of tourists.

Pictures with Koala Bears

In Australia people sometimes want to have their picture taken with a koala bear. While there may seem to be no cruelty in this at all, koala bears are very sensitive animals and those used in this way have shortened lifespans.

High Diving Mules, Donkeys, and Horses

This is another very cruel act. The animals are often observed being whipped while they are forced to jump off a platform into a large pool of water. Very often they do not even jump off the platform, it is rigged to fall out from beneath them causing them to fall. This is very traumatic for the animals, and risks injury if they fall wrong.

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Comments (10)

Oh this is so hard to read. Thank-you Brenda for bringing to light this aspect about animal cruelty. I hope that the entertainment industry will change its ways.

I agree with Christy

At least no animals were harmed in the making of this series. Thanks for the public service announcements.

Very true! In the Philippines, the most common is cock fighting. It's one of the biggest gambling event here other than race horse events.

Brenda if you are going to go on about cruelty to animals and voice your opinion I suggest you also display your source of referrence and accurate data.

bullfighting, horse fighting and dog fighting are among the cruelest

Good comment Nobert. The examples you provided is where the focus on animal cruelty should be where the intent is to injure and or kill. That is not the case in rodeo events.

Thanks Joan. I have worked with horses specifically for years, gone to college to study them, worked on the race track briefly - horse farms, and live in the heart of Rodeo country - Alberta. Regarding the Koalas, Dancing Bears, High Diving Mules, Circuses and Dolphins, this stuff is pretty much common knowledge. I did source some of the information about the movies from I was originally going to go into the number of pups that died filming recent Disney movies - due to Parvo, but felt this was not appropriate since Parvo is a disease. In bucking events the goal is to cause pain. Pain to make them buck higher (bucking strap) and pain as the result of raking the spurs over the shoulders. In other events the goal is not to cause pain, or to scare them but it does happen even if not the goal.

Adding - something can be cruel even if cruelty in itself is not the goal - for example - killing fetal lambs for Broadtail fur is cruel, the goal is the fur, not to be cruel.

Thanks Brenda. I dont think cruelty regarding Koalas and High Diving Mules is common knowledge so information on this is educational. In bucking events the goal is not to cause pain. If a horse were in pain he would not buck and rules within professional associations regulate such activity. The strap is called a flank strap, it is about 4 inches wide and covered in sheepskin which is quite soft.