Kmart is in some hot water with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, after a white-tipped shark they were using to shoot a commercial died in an above-ground pool earlier this month.
According to the LA Times, the 5-foot-long shark died just hours after it was shipped from New York to Los Angeles and transferred into a 60,000-gallon above-ground tank. In a letter sent to the American Humane Association, an organization that monitors the treatment of animals on entertainment and commercial sets, Kmart said that it had done everything possible to save the animal as soon as it showed signs of distress, giving it oxygen and injecting it with adrenaline.
Jody Frisch, an AHA spokesperson, said that the shark’s tank had been the appropriate size and that the crew canceled the shoot when it became apparent that the animal was sick. She added that the association had solicited the help of a third-party investigator to look into what caused the animal’s illness. “We're trying to be responsible and find out what the cause of death was," she said.
Further complicating the issue of the animal’s death, Business Insider reported that white-tipped sharks are an endangered species. Frisch said that while the AHA does have some oversight over the script and can make suggestions about handling and treating the animals, it doesn’t make “decisions about what animals are used, nor do we have jurisdiction over their transportation.”
Although the death took place on March 6 it gained the attention of PETA when an anonymous crew member sent a letter to the AHA, detailing how the shark had died.
"Sharks are sensitive animals who, in captivity, require a highly specialized and controlled environment," PETA wrote in a blog post on Wednesday. "Sharks have exceptional sensory systems that allow them to detect minute electrical fields and sense low-frequency sounds and vibrations. The noise and chaos of a commercial shoot is a very stressful environment for these sensitive animals."
“Animation and CGI sharks have been in use for nearly 40 years in films such as Jaws, Bait D, Deep Blue Sea and Shark Night. In addition to urging Kmart to adopt a policy against using wild animals in its commercials, PETA is contacting the AHA regarding its failure to protect the shark,” the blog post continued.
A spokesperson for Kmart’s parent company, Sears, addressed the incident, writing in a statement, “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.”