A group tasked with ensuring the welfare of animals used in movies and television shows has dismissed a report that it turns a blind eye to abuse because it is too cosy with Hollywood.
Hollywood Reporter listed alleged incidents on films including the Oscar-winning Life of Pi, where it said the Bengal tiger which was central to the movie reportedly nearly drowned.
Twenty-seven animals, including goats and sheep, died in the production of the first of Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, it said, also listing other incidents in which a chipmunk was squashed, a husky dog punched, and fish died in the making of Pirates of the Caribbean.
The American Humane Association (AHA) said the story "distorts the work and record of a respected non-profit organisation that has kept millions of beloved animal actors safe on film and television sets around the world".
"The article paints a picture that is completely unrecognisable to us or anyone who knows American Humane Association's work," added the group, which confers the "No Animals were Harmed" stamp listed at the end of films it has monitored.
In its latest issue, dated December 6, Hollywood Reporter quotes an AHA monitor about an incident in which Richard Parker, the tiger which shares a shipwrecked lifeboat with the hero of Taiwanese director Ang Lee's Life of Pi allegedly nearly drowned.
"This one take ... just went really bad, and he got lost trying to swim to the side," wrote the monitor. "Damn near drowned ... I think this goes without saying but DON'T MENTION IT TO ANYONE, ESPECIALLY THE OFFICE!"
It cited the case of a horse dying in the making of Steven Spielberg's Oscar-nominated 2011 film War Horse, and dozens of fish that washed up dead after the filming of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: the Curse of the Black Pearl, apparently due to special effects explosions in the ocean.
A Spielberg spokesman said the Hollywood Reporter story was exaggerated, but essentially accurate in terms of its description of what happened on War Horse.
"What they wrote was essentially what happened," spokesman Marvin Levy said. "But there was no cover up ... the whole story is rather exaggerated in many places … Safety was the prime consideration throughout the entire film."