PETA Protests 'Zookeeper' Premiere, Blames Giraffe Death on Film's Producers

The hits keep on coming for the new movie "Zookeeper" starring Kevin James and Rosario Dawson. Panned by critics and with only a 15% approval rating on the Web site Rotten Tomatoes the movie has now found itself in PETA's crosshairs.

A group of animal rights activists took to the streets outside a Regency Village Cinema in Westwood California with signs to demonstrate against the film's premiere, according to Patch.

Their protest centered around allegations of animal abuse on set of the zoo-themed comedy, where a giraffe died shortly after production on the film ended. The giraffe named Tweet collapsed and died the day after wrapping his scenes in 2009.

The organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, released a statement saying, "Tweet spent the last few months of his life confined to a 20-foot-by-20-foot stall, which was barely large enough for the 18-foot-tall giraffe to lie down in. In their natural habitat, giraffes live in vast home ranges of up to 400 square miles."

Communications director for the American Humane Association's Film and Television Unit Jone Bouman refuted claims that the enclosure was too small or that Tweet died from eating pieces of tarp, according to Patch. Bouman further said that AHA representatives were present during filming to ensure correct treatment of the animal actors. In fact, according to the AHA a veterinarian treated Tweet the day before he died.

Still, PETA counters that AHA representatives are not always effective in stopping abuse from occurring on film sets. In a statement they explained, "AHA representatives only monitor what occurs during filming, not what happens during off-set training sessions, where abuse is most likely to occur."

Will the perception of animal abuse, and the fate of poor Tweet the giraffe, keep moviegoers from seeing the film? Maybe, although the scathing reviews "Zookeeper" is garnering seem more likely to keep theater seats empty. Frankly, a Kevin James movie with talking animals seems like people abuse to me.

Do you think PETA's claims have merit? Will you be boycotting the film for animal rights or just for your own sanity?