Like many of you, I love the pug in the Vodafone commercials. So it hurt to read that the li’l fella ran a little too hard after the bus while shooting for the new spot. D. Rajasekar, secretary at the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), however tells me that the spot did not attract their attention on charges of cruelty, but simply because it hadn’t got the final go-ahead.
Films or ads using animals have to be registered with AWBI before the censor board clears it for public viewing. Rajasekar says the pre-shoot clearance takes a week, assuming, of course, that the list of conditions is met with. Earlier, the pre-shoot clearance took two weeks and the post-shoot nod another two.
The advertising fraternity, however, says that the entire process is still too lengthy and complex. With fierce competition in the marketplace, ads have to be made double quick for timely airing, they say. The Vodafone spot, for example, had to be shown during the Indian Premier League series. So, perhaps the company could not afford to wait for the final approval. Many creative directors say they’d rather shoot in another country, use animation, or else not use animals at all in their scripts. That’s not good news for the slice-of-life creativity that sells a brand story— imagine if there was no Vodafone pug!
N.G. Jayasimha, campaigns manager at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), says film-makers usually treat animals well, but the animals should be more humanely trained. Peta inspects the way an animal was bred and trained, its on- and post-set treatment and condition. He recounts how they once found a snake in a breeder’s house with its mouth sewn up or how birds’ wings are often clipped so they can be handled easily.
Truth is, most activists don’t want animals to be used in films at all. “We discourage the use of animals in films and ads,” says Rajasekar of AWBI. Normal functions such as horse riding are all right, but not sequences involving cockfighting or bullfighting, he says.
A leading creative director doesn’t agree that animals should be banned altogether. If domestic pets can be trained to fetch and behave at home, why can’t they be trained for films in a kinder way, he asks. This debate may continue till the cows come home.
Marion Arathoon is Mint’s advertising editor. Your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org