A 5-foot-long white-tipped shark died after it was placed into an above-ground backyard pool in Van Nuys, California, during a commercial shoot for Kmart, the LA Times reported.
White-tip sharks are on the list of threatened species due to a decline in population following the popularity of shark fin soup, according to the IUCN.
The death occurred March 6, but came to light after an on-set whistleblower told PETA that Kmart had asked to use live sharks in the ad:
... the production company, Boxer Films of Los Angeles, had recommended against using a live shark. When the animal died, Kmart asked that a second shark be brought on set, but the production company refused and replaced the animal with an animatronic hippopotamus, ...
A source tells us that the script for the ad did call for use of a live shark, and the use of a shark was backed by the production company which had sub-contracted with Critters of the Cinema, an animal actor company that was supposed to follow best practices. This source, however, says that there was no second shark, and the whistleblower was wrong about that.
Actors were jumping in and out of the pool where the shark was kept, according to an AP/BBC report. Mark Stubis, CCO of the American Humane Association (responsible for those "No Animals Were Harmed" notices) tells us that wasn't true, however. "No one jumped into the pool at all. This is untrue." The AHA has launched an investigation into the incident.
When it showed signs of distress, "the shark was injected with adrenaline and received oxygen from a trainer," the LA Times says. The shark died that afternoon after being moved to a specialist in Long Beach.
“We take this matter seriously and safety is always our paramount concern. We have been advised by our agency that the production company responsible for this shoot worked with professional animal handlers and a representative of the American Humane Association for the purpose of monitoring the shark’s welfare. We are saddened by this incident.”
DraftFCB is the Kmart's main agency, although the client placed the account into review in January. The agency tells us:
We are deeply saddened by the passing of the shark that was to be included in the television commercial. The safety and well-being of animals during a commercial production is a matter that we take very seriously. Accordingly, proper steps were taken by the production company managing the shoot to make sure professional animal handlers and a representative of the American Humane Society were on set during the production.
Draftfcb remains fully committed to animal welfare as evidenced by our long-standing relationships with organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and PAWS Chicago.
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