Calgary

4 bison killed for a film being shot in Alberta

The American Humane Association is investigating after four bison were reportedly killed for use in a film being shot in Alberta.

Calgary man says he watched animals being killed and then drove them to the movie set

Four bison were allegedly killed for use in The Solutrean, a film being shot in Alberta. (Yukon government)

The American Humane Association is investigating after four bison were reportedly killed for use in a film being shot in Alberta.

The allegations were first reported in The Hollywood Reporter.

"I was sent out to John Scott's ranch to load some buffalo. When I got out there, the butchers arrived, the guys from Longview Beef Jerky arrived, and I watched them shoot and butcher four buffalo. Loaded them in my trailer and I hauled them to the movie set in East Coulee, Alberta," said Dwight Beard, who works as a wrangler and in transportation for local film shoots. 

When asked if the bison could have been killed for another reason, Beard said it's possible, but unlikely. 

"Certainly, in my opinion, they started off live and they ended up dead on a movie set and nothing happened in between, so I can't think of any other reason," he said. 

'I have the right to sell my bison wherever I want'

The owner of the bison, John Scott, said he did nothing wrong, but he does admit the animals were killed for use in the film.

"The fact that I'm a bison producer and I have the right to sell my bison wherever I want is a legitimate statement," he said. 

"The fact that Longview Beef Jerky is a legitimate business that processes meat is a factual statement. They had a contract with the motion picture company and they came on to administer the processing of the carcasses the way that the company wanted."

Scott said real animals were used instead of props because the film wanted "skin coming off, the hide coming off."

The film The Solutrean by Studio 8 films is a book adaptation that follows a young man, 20,000 years ago, as he struggles against the elements to return to his tribe.

Alberta reputation

Scott's not sure why there's an issue with the killings, as the animals were destined for slaughter regardless. He said one had a broken shoulder, one was already dead when it was butchered and the two others were pulled from a slaughter pen. 

He believes the carcasses were sent to a zoo to be used to feed other animals after being used on the film set.

(The Calgary Zoo later clarified it was not the recipient.)

"They were not my young breeding stock. That I went out and took my young breeding stock, I don't do that," said Scott. 

Beard, who said he used to hunt big game, said the bison ought to be used for something other than entertainment.

He said he'd like Alberta to be known as a province that follows the rules and does everything professionally in the film business.

"I hope in the long run it's going to be a huge positive," he said, adding he's never witnessed animals being killed for a film, but has seen "freshly killed carcasses on set."

He's also not sure why real animals had to be used in the era of special effects and digital manipulation. 

Investigation ongoing

Roland Lines, the communications manager for the Alberta SPCA, said the association received a report of the allegations but is powerless to investigate further. 

"Because there was no indication that the bison suffered in any sense when they were slaughtered, there was nothing for us to pursue under the Animal Protection Act," he said.

"We wouldn't have authority to investigate this."

However, he said his organization disagrees "philosophically" with the alleged killings and passed the concerns to the American Humane Association, which certifies films with its well-known "no animals were harmed in the making of this film" tag.

The AHA said it has brought in an "independent, third-party investigator" to look into the allegations. 

"The probe is still ongoing so we are not prepared to comment publicly yet, however, if the accusations against the provider of the bison, who was hired by production, are true it would be a clear violation of our standards and we would refuse certification to the film," AHA communications manager Scott Sowers said in an email.

SPCA upset by allegations

Lines said if the allegations are true, he finds the situation "upsetting," despite the fact no laws were broken. 

"We think the large majority of Albertans would be outraged to know that something like this was happening," he said. 

"So we certainly, if these allegations are true, would like some strong reaction from the American Humane Association and even from the province, the minister of culture, we would like to see some sort of statement that this type of practice shouldn't be happening on film sets in Alberta."

Studio 8, the production company behind the film, did not respond to a request for comment. 

Longview Beef Jerky, the company which allegedly butchered the bison, wasn't available for comment.

Clarifications

  • John Scott, who sold the bison, told CBC News he believed the carcasses were sent to a zoo to be used to feed other animals after being used on the film set. The Calgary Zoo later clarified it was not the recipient.
    Jun 27, 2016 11:17 AM MT

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