H&R Block ad faces calls to pull campaign featuring ‘non-consenting’ Asian elephant

Animals rights group PETA has launched a campaign in Australia to get an ad taken off air because it features a trained Asian elephant.

The ad for global tax services firm H&R Block, which was filmed on location in Bangkok, features a painted elephant. PETA has called on H&R Block to “Stop supporting elephant abuse” and is asking its supporters to write to the boss of H&R Block’s Australian operations via a templated letter on its website.

The three-month campaign, created by Joy, launched in July in time for tax return season. PETA says that the brand has ignored its calls to stop running the ad.

Last week, Australian singer Judith Durham joined the campaign and called on H&R Block Australia MD to Brodie Dixon to pull the ad “without delay” for featuring “non-consenting ‘actors’”.

Joy has not responded to Mumbrella’s requests for comment at the time of publication.

Durham wrote:

Dear Mr Dixon:

I am dismayed to learn from my friends at PETA Australia that a new H&R Block commercial includes a scene with an elephant. I feel certain that it was a lack of understanding that led to this ill-conceived decision, and I hope that after learning more about how elephants suffer when used as non-consenting “actors”, you’ll pull the ad without delay.

Elephants used in advertisements or other forms of entertainment are kept under control through the use of bull hooks, which are heavy batons with a sharp steel hook on one end. They can leave painful welts and bloody wounds. Elephants live in fear of being beaten with these cruel devices, although of course, the beatings often don’t happen in front of witnesses. The damage is done long before an elephant is rented out or steps in front of a camera.

Whatever reassurances you may have been given, no reputable sanctuary would hire out elephants as trained performers.

Since the commercial was filmed in Bangkok, you may be shocked to learn that Thailand is the world’s largest promoter of elephant camps in which the barbaric Phaajaan ritual is used to break baby elephants’ spirits. Phaajaan means “breaking the love between” (i.e., between a baby elephant and his or her mother). In these facilities, still-nursing baby elephants are dragged from their mothers, bound with ropes and steel cables and immobilised in wooden cages. They are beaten mercilessly for days while deprived of food, water and sleep. The babies panic, collapse in exhaustion, defecate in fear and scream out in terror and pain. They finally give up all hope, and life as they knew it is over forever.

I hope you are as appalled by this information as we all should be and act upon it by immediately pulling H&R Block’s new advertisement. Thank you for your consideration.


Judith Durham


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