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James Cameron's Avatar seems like an animal-cruelty watcher's dream come true. The CGI beasts are adorable, and movie-goers can enjoy watching them gallop, swoop, and swing without worrying about the stress these stunts would impose on live-action animals. For these reasons, PETA praised the movie for "beautifully illustrat[ing] how unnecessary it is to subject animals to the stress of a film production."

But a fellow animal rights organization thinks Avatar illustrates anything but. Cameron may have revolutionized Hollywood, smashed records, and provoked bizarre sociological debates, but he did not avoid the use of live-action animals. While praising the sensitive treatment of horses used in filming, the Humane Society rebuts PETA's notion:


American Humane was, therefore, surprised to learn that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has recognized the film and its director for using computer-generated images (CGI) instead of live animals. ...PETA was apparently unaware that, even though the film was produced using CGI, live animals were used -- for motion capture.

Movie Line's S.T. VanAirsdale jokingly predicts that the preparation of horses for motion capture--involving glue, shaving, and light-reflective balls--will cause PETA to retract its Avatar praise:


So... Velcro glued to bare skin? Tails wrapped in "sensor-laden material"? This changes everything. And you don't even want to be around when PETA hears how infrequently Cameron's crew cleaned the banshee cages.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.