Controversy on the use of animals in Chinese dramas demonstrates Chinese netizens' increased concern for animal safety
Published: May 06, 2022 01:20 AM
Photo: VCG
Photo: VCG

The recent hit Chinese historical drama, Who Rules the World, has sparked controversy on social media after a recent episode featured a scene in which a galloping horse falls roughly headfirst into the ground, leaving viewers wondering if the animal was injured .  

This and additional incidents involving other shows led netizens to call for more attention to animal protection in the TV and film industries. 

The sight of the horse crashing to the ground quickly sparked controversy among Chinese netizens, especially after some pointed out that upon close observation, a rope presumably used to pull the horse down, could be seen around the animal's neck. Some netizens said that such stunts could cause injury or death for even well-trained animals, while others questioned the morality of endangering an animal to shoot an entertainment program.  

Responding to the controversy, the production team for the drama issued a statement saying that the horse was especially trained for the scene and the stunt team implemented measures to keep the horse safe during the shooting. The horse is healthy and safe now and is working with another crew, the statement noted.

The explanation did not completely reassure Chinese netizens who called for more attention to be paid to animal protection in the entertainment industry.

Who Rules the World is not the only show that has ignited controversy online. 

Drama series Marvelous Women, also raised questions of animal abuse after a scene aired in which a cat that was poisoned struggles on the floor with blood coming out from its mouth. The realistic depiction caused many viewers to wonder if the production actually poisoned a cat for the scene.

Although the studios involved in these controversies issued statements clarifying that no abuse took place, the fact that these scenes have caused netizens to speak out demonstrates that audiences are paying greater attention to how animals are used in the entertainment industry, while clearly showing they will not stand for any cruelty to these creatures. According to experts, this increasing awareness is a good change. 

“The entertainment industry is certainly paying more attention to safeguarding animal rights nowadays. This positive change is the result of supervision from the public. There are more fans of TV shows today and netizens are paying attention to how animals are being treated. This can ‘force' the producers to avoid animal abuse that can impact the show's reputation and with such incidents being called out by netizens, other similar productions are sure to be extra cautious to not make the same mistakes,” Feng Dongmei, an expert on animal rights in China, told the Global Times. 

The government has also taken steps to ensure that regulations on animal safety are clear. On April 26, the film and TV administration issued a clarification on industry norms, noting that producers should set appropriate schedules for shooting scenes with animals and ensure the implementation of proper safety protection measures according to the situation.

Feng added that in the future the industry should continue heading in the right direction by consulting animal experts and developing new technologies that can replace animals to carry out risky stunts.