Video from the press tour in Tokyo shows dolphins performing tricks in the water, including the marine mammals lifting two trainers into the air. The Canadian director can be seen enjoying the show along with movie stars Zoe Saldaña, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, and Stephen Lang as well as producer Jon Landau.
Cameron jokingly said of the dolphins that he was confident that “everybody asked their permission to be in the show.”
“I love these animals, I love their intelligence,” he said. “I love their sociability, their ability to connect with us and to interact with us and learn from us.”
PETA U.S. Senior Vice President Lisa Lange expressed her outrage over the use of live dolphins to promote the movie.
“James Cameron waited 13 years for the development of the right technology to bring the underwater world of Pandora to life,” she told Plant Based News. “So why on Earth didn’t he pause for just five minutes to consider whether he should have allowed himself to be seen as endorsing the cruelty of marine parks?”
“Confining far-ranging dolphins to concrete tanks and using them as surfboards – riding on their faces in circus-style shows – is something the villains of ‘Avatar’ would do,” she continued. “PETA urges him to reject such animal misery outright and encourages everyone to shun these cruel parks.”
Lange also told Yahoo News Australia that she originally believed the dolphins were animatronics or some kind of “movie magic,” but then discovered they were real animals.
“To see James Cameron, Sigourney Weaver, and Sam Worthington sitting there applauding was shocking,” Lange told the publication. “The trainers were treating those dolphins like circus clowns. They were riding on the noses of the dolphins, I mean, that’s as bad as it gets.”
She wasn’t the only one furious at Cameron.
“Captive dolphins are confined to a tiny, barren, artificial environment 200 thousand times smaller than their natural habitat. They endure severe suffering and distress and live much shorter lives on average than their wild counterparts,” World Animal Protection group director Cameron Harsh said in a statement, calling Cameron’s decision “confoundingly out of step” with his reputation.
Many fans and activists went so far as to call for boycotts of the new “Avatar” movie. They were especially incensed because Cameron is a vegan and animal rights advocate himself.