‘Some Animals Were Harmed in the Making of this Film’ – The Revenant

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DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass poses on top of a pile of 10,000 buffalo skulls, symbolising how many people the actor would be willing to personally murder for an Oscar.

Staying to the end of The Revenant’s credits you might notice, if you’re looking for it, a suspicious lack of the usual ‘No Animals Were Harmed in the Making of this Motion Picture’ message, accompanied by the American Humane Association’s iconic multispecies stamp. This is troubling, because it means there may have been insufficient levels of monitoring – therefore the AHA could not approve it – or worse, that they did monitor the film but the production did not match animal welfare standards. Sadly, the ‘No Animals Were Harmed’ label is largely redundant, a mere trick of the trade used to comfort viewers and deflect criticism from the likes of animal rights groups such as PETA. Film companies have been known to suppress the truth about animal casualties on set to prevent charges of failing to adhere to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, and to avoid negative press about a movie.

In 2013, Hollywood Reporter journalists exposed the AHA’s many cover ups, stating that it is entirely funded by the industry that it supposedly monitors. Furthermore, it has intentionally distorted its criteria to allow movies on which stunt animals died to claim the humane stamp anyway, using tactics including only monitoring animal wellbeing in footage that goes into the final cut but ignoring deleted footage of injuries and any behind the scenes accidents or abuses. By all accounts the worse incident of such deception comes from the filming of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, during which 27 animals – mainly horses – perished due to poor management. It got the AHA stamp anyway. As if if there weren’t enough reasons to hate that film. Was it really worth any animal deaths, let alone dozens? The answer is: fuck no, for fuck’s sake.

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Disclaimer: Except for all the ones that were.

In any case, the ‘No Animals Were Harmed’ statement is, and always has been, an utter, woeful lie. Regardless of how well looked after and happy the animals on set may have been, or even if there was not a single one in the production from start to finish, the film cannot claim any sort of moral high ground if it hired Craft Services to feed the crew. Unless them canteens only serve plant-based foods (they definitely serve dead bodies) then every single motion picture released in history cannot lay claim to the ethical treatment of animals. That’s correct: Animals were harmed during the making of your personal favorite motion picture. But back to The Revenant and its leading man.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s work as an environmentalist is well documented – he puts as much energy into renewable energy and the reversing of global warming as he does into his acting nowadays. It’s not for show. He really does care. His foundation provides funding to many worthy organisations, while the man himself regularly speaks at climate change awareness events – such as the recent Climate Crisis Paris talks. Cowspiracy, a 2014 documentary about the negative impact of the animal agriculture industry on the world’s habitats, is currently opening eyes and changing lives at a prodigious rate. Mr DiCaprio is largely to thank for this; it was his passion for the independent project that led him to take on a producing role, fund an extended cut, and get the film onto Netflix, which is when it really began to turn some heads – and turn many off beef for good.

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Leo’s face when told ‘plants are alive too, y’know’.

During the press tour for The Revenant, the riveting historical revenge drama from Birdman director Alejandro Innaritu, DiCaprio regularly brought up the issue of climate change in relation to the film. On multiple occasions location changes were a forced necessity because, even in icy tundras of remote Canada and Argentina, caps were melting, there was not enough snow, and it just wasn’t cold enough – all of which the long time multiple-Academy nominee puts down to man made pollution.

This admirable commitment to saving the planet and its inhabitants makes some of DiCaprio’s on set ‘method’ choices for The Revenant seem just a tiny bit hypocritical. After all, he has been an advocate of a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle for several years now, citing his disdain for animal agriculture practices and empathy for other living creatures as incentives, not to mention the compelling evidence that the animal food industry contributes more to worldwide greenhouse gases than literally any other practice, including all vehicle transportation. So why, then, would Leo choose to eat meat on camera for The Revenant? In an interview with USA Today, the flexitarian explains:

“I looked at what I was eating and it didn’t seem authentic… We were striving for authenticity. My reaction to eating that piece of meat is right up on screen”

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Here we see Leonardo at his most authentic true self, slopping about in the mud and ramming a genuine authentic pine cone into his rectum for the cameras in order to win an Oscar.

Apparently, the prosthetic raw bison liver his character was made to chomp on didn’t quite make the cut. He needed something more ‘authentic’, to really flesh out the performance. Real raw bison’s liver, then. Interestingly, in the name of art it becomes fine to consume the body of an animal that was killed so that it could be used in a movie. His reaction, by the way, was to violently hurl it straight back up again – perhaps his ethical gag reflex kicking into gear – but whether or not he kept it down is irrelevant. He still ate it, because he was willing to do anything he could to prove his worth as an actor and finally gain that Oscar after five nominations without a win. Leo knew this role as wilderness survivalist Hugh Glass could finally clinch it for him,  and to create buzz around himself and the film he decided to go all the way. Sure enough, he wasn’t wrong – the media latched onto the raw bison liver stunt like a school of piranhas.

The Telegraph ran a piece about what was and was not faked when shooting The Revenant. Mainly because to the uninformed it appears as though an awful lot of animal abuse is going on behind – and indeed in – the scenes. What with the thousands of pelts hoarded by the fur trapper protagonists, plus the horses being whipped and thwacked and knocked over all over the place, it looks like some kind of post-apocalyptic Cirque De Sadism. Much of these goings on weren’t real, as the article informs us that CGI and prosthetics were used wherever possible, and all of the animal skins were either replicated or were genuine but date back a while (i.e pre-existing, not produced for this film). These details are important. It is not a denial of the reality of what went on during the boom of the fur industry and cultural genocide of the Native American people – these can be fully acknowledged and replicated without the need to perpetuate that suffering all over again. If it can be faked, it should.

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Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man HIDDEN FOOTAGE LEAK  (Bear Kills Man Alive Prank!) (GONE WRONG) 2K16!

People want to be reassured of such things, because they do not like the idea of innocent creatures being killed for entertainment. The movie going public would never support animal torture in the pursuit of a film that was 100% real, shot for shot. To do this would be impracticable on so many levels; nobody would have the cast hacked to bits for extra authenticity – it would be lunacy, and not many actors would consent to it (excepting DiCaprio, if there was a guaranteed posthumous Oscar in the contract). One only has to look back at Ruggero Deodato’s charges of murder and subsequent court appearances following the release of his grisly cult classic Cannibal Holocaust, which had been labeled a snuff film by critics. And he didn’t even kill anyone! If Innaritu and Spielberg started bumping off actors they wouldn’t last long. Or maybe they would just be moved beyond the relevant legal jurisdiction, so that they could continue to churn out hits and make money for the big companies, all from a Polanski safe distance away.

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DiCaprio follows in the footsteps of his hero, Gills De Rais, by torturing a fish…

In addition to the buffalo corpse, soon-to-be Golden boy Leonardo also decided to capture a live fish, then bite into it and rip a hunk of flesh from its writhing body. Now, no official word has been made by the actor or anyone on the set about whether or not this is unedited footage. The rumours about its authenticity, and DiCaprio’s silence, suggest that this ghetto sushi lunch actually happened. He did swallow this time, and didn’t seem to spit it back out neither. Why this was not done through computer effects is unclear – other than that Leonarado didn’t want it to be, so that he could add layers of ‘authenticity’ to the role and thus up his chances of bagging a statue. Fish don’t have feelings anyway, right? But really, if VFX was used for wolves, deer, bears, buffalo, and some extreme white river rafting, it could have been used here too.

Personally, I think DiCaprio should not win the Oscar for best actor this year. He didn’t really get almost mauled to death by a brown bear. Those weren’t really huge gaping holes in his body, exposing the layers of fat and muscle beneath. That dead horse he gutted and slept in Taun Taun style wasn’t even an actual dead horse! The man is a shuckster! But the odds seem to be in his favour. Always the brides maid, maybe just this once the bride. To be fair though, he did deserve to win for The Departed.

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The Chicago Bears captain standing in for a real bear to maul DiCaprio on set of The Revenant.

If the long-suffering thesp does at last get his Oscar -which for the sake of ending the jokes about him not getting one would be worth it alone – then he will probably make a stand against climate change and animal agriculture as part of his acceptance speech. Look closely as he beams up there on the podium. Look into his glimmering self-righteous eyes, down into his optic stems, right on through to the very core of inner being. Lying there you will see his guilt at exploiting those animals in The Revenant. His future Oscar is but blood money and, as Macbeth found out to his horror, he will never be able to wash the fish oil from his hands.

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Picture of Leonardo DiCaprio post-lobotomy at the end of Shutter Island (spoliers lolol)

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33 comments

    1. Thank you for your well thought out criticisms.
      I will be right back, I am just going out to the local supermarket shopping store to purchase a life. I will let you know what kind I buy, Ms. Jake. Thinking something exotic.

      Until I return, m’fair lady.

      1. Chuck Mcbroski · · Reply

        It’s the circle of life bro

        1. Chuck Mcbroski · · Reply

          Protein deficiency

          1. Chuck Mcbroski · · Reply

            B12!

            1. Only a true militant vegan could make such a knowing mockery of defensive omnivores who are obsessed with appeal to nature fallacies and believe themselves to be nutritional experts because they eat things. Great satire, I r8 it 8/8 m8!

              Are you a moderator of r/VeganCirclejerk by any chance?

              Thanks for reading.

            2. You’re so dumb lmao vegans get the same amount if not more nutrients than carnists

  1. Sidney Perry · · Reply

    Nice article and i hope Leo doesn’t get the Oscar!!
    And the movie is total crap too!

  2. Antonio Esteban · · Reply

    The director is from a country with a horrendous animal cruelty record. It’s no wonder his movies exploit animals with appalling disdain for animal suffering.

  3. fran aperones, J.D. · · Reply

    Couldn’t go to this one b/c trailers showed some horses running off a cliff & couldn’t be sure this was faked. I can eaasily ‘miss’ a film, rather than subject myself to actually Possible Terrific animal cruelty! No great loss to me if I’m ever in doubt. Can always see it later if I ever learn definitively that the film was ‘cruelty free’.

  4. David Dykstra · · Reply

    Thank you for this information. I will not watch the film as a result.

  5. Carnivore · · Reply

    Animals, humans, most creatures eat meat. It has always happened and always will.

    1. Idiots… They’ve always been around, and they always will be! Thanks so much for reading my good chum.

    2. Just Be Consistent · · Reply

      Dear “Carnivore”,
      By your own argument’s internal structure, the following could also be said; “The strong vanquish the weak. They always have and they always will.”
      Well, I’m a longtime MMA fighter and how about I come over to your place and cave your face in?! What’s that you say? Just because the strong always have vanquished the weak, that doesn’t make it right??? Hummm, consistent much?!
      Things seem VERY DIFFERENT when you’re on the receiving end of mayhem and killing, don’t they.

  6. There is no need to harm any animals or fish for entertainment. If di Captio did this he s a total hypocrite .and by the way, people can get all the nutrients they need from a meat and dairy free diet, and as a bonus. They re less likely to end up with cancer

  7. Beth Blakeman · · Reply

    I put off watching this movie for quite a while for many of these very reasons. I watched it tonight with trepidation, as it was free on HBO which I have free for 3 months after they screwed me. Thought I should get it over with. I admit to walking out on the movie several times. Even with an AHA in the credits, I would never have believed that animals were not harmed, or fish either. I found the character he played interesting, but I could not sympathize with anyone but the creatures and the Native people in this movie. I really hated the furriers, accurate depiction or not. Thank heavens I didn’t see it with any friends or I’m sure a vicious argument would have ensued. I will say two things I felt made this movie worthy – the photography of the scenery was astonishingly beautiful and I loved the music of Ryuichi Sakamoto.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, and thanks for reading! I agree, the landscape photography was amazing and worthy as a standalone art piece in itself.

  8. Interesting and informative read.

    I don’t go to the cinema much, but I do watch a lot of nature documentaries (and make a few of them myself) and sadly there is a parallel with the situation you describe in feature film production – staged and covered up animals killings arranged for the camera is a practice that is still alive and kicking in so-called ‘factual’ wildlife documentaries.

    The BBC have their own Editorial Guidelines that covers such things as truth, ethics and animal cruelty. In a section dedicated to the making of natural history films http://www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/guidance/natural-world the guidelines state, for some peculiar reason, the blindingly obvious: “Audiences should never be deceived or misled by what they see or hear.”

    A recent clip advertising a BBC natures series on UK television used the staged killing of captive live fishes and has deceived over 13m viewers on Facebook alone. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-36320841.

    This week in Bristol in the UK the film festival Wildscreen (often referred to as the Green Oscars) is selling tickets to screenings of a film that is nominated for a WWF Panda award that uses the same techniques, this time with kingfishers killing live fish in a tank, all skilfully presented as though shot entirely naturally.

    1. Thanks for your comment Stephen, really fascinating to hear a professional’s take on this. Honestly I had not even considered the possible negative impacts that nature documentaries could have on animal welfare. Because of the factual nature of the shows and the way in which they are presented – by trusted organisations such as the BBC no less – I suppose people just ASSUME that no animals were intentionally harmed. Will check out your links now, and thanks for reading!

      1. One UK newspaper has even named a very recent UK nature series as the No.1 TV show of 2016, in which there appears to be a scene filmed in captivity using live baiting – a scorpion and a bat fighting to the death. (Please somebody correct me that it was CGI!).

  9. You are all idiots.

  10. I just happened to see a short part of the movie on Hbo, and as soon as the ‘horse’ scene came up, it felt so real that I had to stop and Google if animals here harmed in that movie or not, and Im very dissapointed in this movie. And the whole hype around it. DiCaprio had apparently a great speech about climate change etc when winning this Oscar (I haven’t watched it) but doing this movie which has not complied with those standards makes him a hypocrite, and I no longer like him as I did before. Thank you so much for the good read. And don’t pay attention to the assholes commenting. Ignorance is bliss. Or actually i’ts bliss for themselves. It’s a pain in the ass for the rest. Stay blessed!

  11. When the CGI is so good, it convinces vegans that it’s real.

    1. When the denial is so strong, it convinces non-vegans that they are still right. Bless up, and thanks for reading!

  12. I watched this movie up until the scene when the horse was thrown over the cliff and broke in half, followed by Dicaprio taking out the guts and sleeping inside of the horse. After that, I had to turn the movie off. It felt so wrong, and displaying animal suffering in this way, where the main character feels no pain or remorse from the animal’s death, but instead using the animal for his own gain is a very unethical representation of how we should treat animals. Movies and entertainment should be banned from using scenes of animal abuse, and from using any animals on set.

    1. That was very clearly fake and it is based on a true story of what the man did to survive…. Do you have any idea of how much backlash this would get from everyone if they really chucked a horse off a cliff? Leo is trying to save the planet? Why would he throw a horse off a cliff.. he loves animals 😂

  13. Thanks to imdb and you, I will not watch this movie. Thanks for the heads up! Be well!

  14. As a meat-lover, i don’t get this. And as a Christian, I remember these words of the Lord: Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. It’s not like I’m an advocate of massacring animals, but what’s so evil about eating meat that makes you hate your own kind so much that you would utter such vicious condemnation which you might never utter upon the wolves and lions? You discard fellow human beings as idiots and yet you did not say anything about the violence in nature without the participation of mankind, isn’t this kind of hypocritical?
    And plants, what did they do to you that you’d like to eat more of them instead of those damn animals?

    1. My dear fellow, I cannot tell if you are trolling or not but I will reply to you in the hope that you are sincere. As a ‘meat-lover’ you would not get this, or rather you choose not to, because anything which forces you to confront the ethical and environmental issues associated with eating meat makes you feel uncomfortable. You don’t want to get it, is what you mean to say. If you got it, it would require a some level of critical thinking and possibly behaviour change too, and you want to avoid those things. How exactly do you make love to your meat, by the way? Is it raw at the time? Yikes.

      We’ll leave the religious justifications to one side, because it’s not really relevant to the rest of the argument. I’m more concerned with reality, you see.

      I did not say eating meat was ‘evil’ but it is unnecessary and it is unkind to kill animals when we no longer need them as a source of food. It is especially pointless to kill them for ‘sport’ or as entertainment. Humans have the freedom to choose what they eat, animals much less so. Our species can decide to be kind or cruel, whereas a lion or a wolf acts on its evolutionary instinct to kill in order to eat and survive. You, ‘as a Christian’, would never tell me that a man killing another man is permissible because sometimes monkeys kill one another. Human morality cannot be lumped together with the behaviour of wild animals. It is not hypocritical to condemn humanity’s decision to harm animals but not the lion that kills the antelope, because the human doesn’t have to do it.

      Onto plants. You’ve hit me with the classic ‘Plants Tho’ argument. And guess what…you got me, Ian! I fucking hate them! No, but really, the reasons people eat them are because they are healthful, in plentiful supply, and they do not have a central nervous system or consciousness. Therefore they do not suffer fear or pain, as do the literally trillions of ‘those damn animals’ humans needlessly kill each year. Also, plants taste good. I look forward to your reply, and I also ask you this: When you make love to your meat, what’s your favourite music for setting the mood?

  15. But, it was CGI. And you can clearly see it’s CGI…

    1. Wait, are you telling me Leonardo DiCaprio was CGI? I KNEW he wasn’t real! Nobody is that good looking and talented.

      1. The only thing that hasn’t been confirmed as real or fake was him biting into the fish, which I agree is cruel and kinda gross, but the rest was props and CGI. I’m not trying to prove your argument wrong, as I completely agree that animals shouldn’t be harmed for anyone’s entertainment and enjoyment, and definitely not just for a film. I’m just trying explain that all the dead animals and horses and whatever, that was all fake..

        1. We seem to be on the same page, which is cool. I was mainly commenting on the fact that he ate bison liver and *appears to* have eaten a live fish despite being a vocal vegan and environmentalist.

          My overall criticism of animal abuse in film is applies beyond The Revenant though.

          Appreciate your readership, Samuel, and thanks for commenting.

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