R.I.P Cheeseface: 9 Famous Animals Who Met Tragic Deaths

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The giraffe in Zookeeper is the latest cinematic creature to meet an untimely demise

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Sony Pictures

Summer comedies are more often meant to be nothing more than light-hearted fluff, an excuse for parents to sit down and zone out with their kids in an air-conditioned room for a few hours. But the Kevin James’ PG comedy Zookeeper, released today, has attracted some uncharacteristically heavy controversy for a movie about an Average Joe who talks to animals.

The film has been under fire for some time from animal activists who claim that the animal actors were abused and forced to live in poor conditions on set. In 2009, when the movie was being filmed, PETA alleged that a giraffe that died on the set had been forced to live in a 20-foot by 20-foot stall, with barely enough room to lie down. Activists also cited the film’s use of an elephant named Tai, whose handling company was filmed by Animal Defenders International in 2005 using abusive training methods that included hooks and electric prods. Tai also appeared in this year’s Robert Pattinson/Reese Witherspoon film, Water for Elephants, which was met with similar protests.

The use of animals in Hollywood films has long been a source of controversy, with opponents claiming that even when kept in comparatively good conditions, performing can be stressful and traumatizing for animals. They have urged studios to use computer generated animals, citing examples like the Narnia franchise, which opted to "fake it" without suffering a loss at the box office.

While abuse can’t be proved in every case, fame does seem to lead many animals to uncharacteristically bizarre, tragic, and gruesome deaths. Take a look at this list of animal celebrities who reached the stars but fell back to earth, hard.

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Daniel D. Snyder is a writer based in New Mexico.

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