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Animal rights group investigating reports alleging 5 Alberta bison killed for Hollywood movie

In this undated photo provided by Parks Canada a plains bison herd roam in a section of the Elk Island National Park, Canada. Parks Canada via AP

A Hollywood movie company is under scrutiny after reports surfaced alleging that five bison were killed during production of The Solutrean in April.

The movie, which is described on the Internet Movie Database as a survival story set during the last Ice Age, used bison carcasses as props during a scene.

The Hollywood Reporter first reported the allegations earlier this month.  The article suggests there are questions over whether the film’s animal wrangler, John Scott, had the bison killed specifically for the movie, which is prohibited by the American Humane Association.

Scott, who is based in Longview, Alta., has numerous animal-wrangling film credits to his name, including The Revenant and Night at the Museum 3, according to his website.

The original complaint about the dead bison was made to the Alberta SPCA during filming near Drumheller in April.

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The SPCA’s spokesperson, Roland Lines, said although his group disagrees with “killing an animal specifically to be used as a movie prop,” it had no legal authority to investigate because there was no indication the animals had suffered during slaughter.

He said the complaint was forwarded to counterparts in the United States instead but pointed out dead animals can be used in films.

“Purchasing a carcass from a meat producer is OK,” Lines said. “The allegation in this case is that the bison, prior to their slaughter, were already connected to somebody working on the film.”

Lines, citing confidentiality, wouldn’t reveal who made the accusation.

The Canadian Press tried reaching out to Scott but said he could not be reached for comment. His staff told The Canadian Press he is under a confidentiality clause with Studio 8, the production company behind the film.

READ MORE: Report probes animal deaths, injuries in movies

The AHA confirmed to Global News that officials are currently investigating the claims, and if they prove to be true, won’t certify the film.

“We immediately brought in an independent, third-party investigator to reveal all the facts and find out the truth,” AHA spokesperson Scott Sowers said in an email.

“The probe is still ongoing so we are not prepared to comment publicly yet.”

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Studio 8 told the New York Daily News that the company purchased bison carcasses from Longview Beef Jerky and the animals “had been previously harvested as part of the routine production of jerky and other meat products.”

But Tom Kirk of Longview Beef Jerky told the Hollywood Reporter he didn’t have any idea where the bison carcasses came from.

Dwight Beard, a trucker on The Solutrean, told the magazine Scott owned the bison and he witnessed the killings on Scott’s ranch when he went to pick them up.

“John [Scott] told the butcher not to put his name on the paperwork for the buffalo because he knew that it could get traced back by animal rights activists,” Beard told the Hollywood Reporter.

“These guys all know it’s wrong so they are trying to be arm’s length away.”

The AMA says if their investigation finds any wrongdoing, it will submit the evidence to the proper authorities.

In a statement issued Monday, Studio 8 said it is doing an internal review as well, but has so far found no evidence supporting the allegation.

“Our preliminary findings confirm that no one from the production had authorized or was aware of any deviation from (American Humane Association’s) guidelines,” said the statement.

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“If we find that any deviation did indeed occur, we will consider all potential remedies, including rescuing five other bison, who would have otherwise been slaughtered, by purchasing them for adoption by an animal sanctuary.”

The company also said that two representatives from the humane association were on the movie set to ensure staff were following rules.

No release date has been announced for The Solutrean.

-With files from The Canadian Press.

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