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"Flicka," a remake of a tear-jerker horse story from a few decades ago, is designed to pull on your heartstrings so that those involved in making the movie will become wealthy/wealthier. The facts that are surfacing, however, indicate the only tears worth shedding are for the animals killed in making the movie and those responsible should be facing criminal animal cruelty charges.
So far, two horses (that we know of) have died during filming. The death of the first horse occurred on April 11 at Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley, California. E Online has reported, "According to the AHA'S [American Humane Association's] report, a horse broke its leg 'after a misstep' and suffered a 'very rare' injury requiring the animal to be euthanized."
The second horse died two weeks later on April 25 during the filming of an inherently dangerous rodeo event called the "Wild Horse Race" Animal injuries and deaths are common in this event. A Wild Horse Race is all about chaos in the arena. Once set in motion, there is no way to control it.
According to Roland Vincent, the extra on the set who reported the death and was subsequently fired for it by Fox Productions, "The horses were absolutley terrified and were running for their lives. In the process, the horse tripped on its own rope, and fell down and another horse kicked him in the head, and that horse was in a spasm and died a horrible death."
These horses were, in fact, not wild -- no horses in rodeos are. They simply act wild out of panic and terror due to the torment to which they are subjected. Interestingly, the AHA attempted to deflect criticism by stressing the animals used were not "wild mustangs" but instead were "domestically bred," as if this fact somehow lessens the tragedy.
Furthermore, extras and bystanders who witnessed what happened on the set have gone public about the animal abuse that occurred, including animals being struck and punched to make them "perform." Now two horses are dead, and there is concern that more may follow.
After presiding over this outrage and the resulting deaths of innocent animals, Sara Spaulding, AHA'S Vice President of Marketing, actually issued the following statement: "Understanding the events involving the accidental deaths of horses during the filming of Flicka does not lessen our saddness....These accidents make it clear, however, of the importance of our work to protect animal actors." This statement proves that the AHA is willing to put a positive spin on the tragedy they were responsible for overseeing no matter how ridiculous or shameless.
According to Dana Bartholomew, staff writer for the Los Angeles Daily News, "Critics have faulted the AHA for conflict of interest, saying it is indirectly funded by the Screen Actors Guild and have a history of covering up Hollywood animal cruelty." Kathy Riordan, a member of the Los Angeles Animal Services Commission told the Los Angeles Daily News: "I personally think there is a major conflict of interest when the entity responsible for monitoring an industry is supported by it. Any way you look at it, [the AHA] gets paid by Hollywood and there's something wrong with that." Following the deaths of the two horses, the AHA conducted an investigation of itself and subsequently exonerated itself of all wrongdoing.
"Flicka" star Tim McGraw is a rodeo supporter who has performed at many rodeos and is clearly a fan of this kind of animal abuse. Furthermore, Mr. McGraw has made no statement of which we are aware indicating he will take steps to improve the treatment of animals on the set or that he even regrets what happened. Mr. McGraw's role in the film makes him look like a good guy when in reality horses have been sacrificed to make him a "star." This is purely contemptible.
Four employees of the American Humane Association (AHA) were reportedly on the movie set prior and during the filming of the rodeo scene. They should have disallowed an event so inherently dangerous and uncontrollable from taking place to begin with, but apparently they did not. It should be mentioned that although there is film of the accidents, all parties involved have refused to make it public. This is very telling. While claiming that all parties involved are blameless, the parties involved have refused to release the video evidence that would prove they are innocent, if in fact they are.
This killer movie was released in October 2006. The horses killed by those involved in making "Flicka" should not be forgotten. Please do not patronize this film made from the real terror and pain of horses. We hope that true animal lovers will give this movie a big thumbs down.