Zac Efron has become the latest actor to wind up in hot water with PETA. The organization, whose name is an acronym for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has put the High School Musical star on blast after the release of a video ad featuring Efron interacting with a bear. Per TMZ, the video has drawn criticism from PETA as the bear who co-starred with Efron in the clip has spent its entire life in captivity, making the video ironic.
“It’s hypocritical to exploit one animal to potentially help another,” a PETA statement reads. “No true conservation group would ever force captive animals to perform tricks awareness for the camera in order to raise awareness about their wild counterparts. “
According to PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Welfare, Debbie Metzler, Efron needs to “come down to Earth” by rethinking his spot in the video ad. In the video, Efron can be seen asking the bear a variety of questions for comedic effect. Metzler suggests Efron should add the question, “How wrong is it to use a captive bear to promote ‘keeping bears wild?'”
The video is for Kodiak Cakes, of which Efron has been named Chief Brand Officer, and the bear featured in the video is a 27-year-old named Tank. The bear had reportedly been born in captivity, taken from a breeder when he was just six weeks old and has since been turned into an “animal actor” with a previous appearance on the Discovery + show Man Vs. Bear and this new spot with Efron. The limited time promotion will see Kodiak Cakes and Efron partnering up to benefit Vital Ground Foundation, a nonprofit supporting the preservation of wild grizzly bear habitats. The company and the actor will offer a dollar-for-dollar match of proceeds from their “Keep It Wild” merchandise sales directly to the charity.
PETA has called for the ad to be edited or reshot with the bear either replaced with CGI or outright removed. They want Efron to personally make the call, insisting that the actor would have some influence with Kodiak Cakes given his position with the company. As of now, Efron has not publicly responded to the PETA pressure to change the ad.
PETA Praised The Boys for Using a CGI Animal
It’s nothing new for PETA to criticize film or TV productions for using real animals instead of CGI. A recent episode of the Prime Video series The Boys featured a scene with an Aquaman-like superhero called The Deep (Chace Crawford) getting forced to eat an octopus which was his friend named Timothy. Despite the disturbing nature of the scene, PETA praised The Boys after the episode premiered for using a CGI octopus rather than having Crawford dine on a real animal.
“The Boys‘real heroes are working behind the scenes, creating a realistic CGI octopus so that animals can live in peace, “PETA Senior Vice President Lisa Lange said in a statement at the time.” PETA is celebrating this series for helping viewers see every octopus as an individual like Timothy, not as an entrée or as entertainment. “
Meanwhile, PETA has taken aim at movies like A Dog’s Purpose, Clifford the Big Red Dogand Jackass Forever for using real animals for their productions. Recently, the org also called for an investigation after a horse died on the set of the HBO series The Gilded Age.