Heart of the Stag (1984)
Heart of the Stag was filmed in New Zealand by a local film company. AHA had no involvement; however, we have learned through the New Zealand RSPCA that a stag died of stress during the filming of a scene that required the lead actor (Terence Cooper) to wrestle with the animal. According to a letter from the RSPCA, “as the stag had died before the scene was shot, the dead animal was decapitated and the scene was achieved with close-ups of the actor wrestling with the head.”
AHA rated this film Unacceptable due to the death of an animal through improper and stressful handling during production.
The ongoing expansion of the AHA Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media has raised the standard of care for animal actors worldwide. In addition, technological advancements have created safe alternatives to risky action, enabling filmmakers to maintain their creative vision without compromising the welfare of animal actors. AHA continues to be a vigilant watchdog for animals in film and television and acknowledges the groundbreaking history of this program while expanding and refining procedures to reflect increased knowledge and new challenges.