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Was Robert Pattinson's Elephant Costar Tortured During Training?

It isn't quite as close as his relaysh with K.Stew, but Robert Pattinson has a super tight on-screen connection with his Water for Elephants costar, Tai.
/ Source: E!online

It isn't quite as close as his relaysh with K.Stew, but Robert Pattinson has a super tight on-screen connection with his Water for Elephants costar, Tai.

But prior to their lovefest and well before Rob's pachyderm pal was doing handstands and other circus tricks for the film, a video taken in 2005 suggests that Tai was tortured while learning such stunts. Again, this was prior to joining the cast.

In a new interview with Graham Norton airing Saturday on the BBC, R.Pattz talks about his love for his animal costar, but is staying mum on any mistreatment:

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"I genuinely thought we had a real bond, a little something going on," Rob tells BBC talk show host Norton of his relationship with the lovable elephant who steals the show.

Of one especially frisky scene when Rob is playing with Tai's trunk, the actor joked, "She was just supposed to be sniffing my crotch but it's incredibly awkward if you're doing a scene and trying to hold her trunk."

But getting Tai to do such scenes and follow orders was no laughing matter.

While the studio has vehemently denied any mistreatment of animals on-set, this new video shows Tai being shocked and bull-horned in order to learn her circus tricks that got her the role.

The video, from Have Trunk Will Travel, where Tai was trained, is from 2005 but was recently released by the Animal Defenders International.

While Have Trunk Will Travel has not responded to our request for comment, ADI released the following statement:

"We were uncomfortable with the message of this film, but the more we saw the repeated assertions that this elephant has been treated with love and affection and never been abused, we realized that we had to get the truth out. The public, the stars and the filmmakers have been duped. This poor elephant was trained to do the very tricks you see in the film by being given electric shocks."

Fox, the film's distributor, shot back:

"A central message of Water for Elephants is the condemnation of cruelty towards animals. Twentieth Century Fox feels strongly that we have taken every step to ensure that the film, while portraying the perception of animal abuse (often through digital effects), held in utmost importance the proper care and humane treatment of all animals involved in the production. Fox and the filmmakers behind Water for Elephants are disturbed and saddened by the video being circulated that purportedly shows the elephant Tai being mistreated several years ago. We are strongly opposed to violence against animals, humans or any creatures.

"Fox is compelled to point out that this video was NOT taken during the training for, or production of, our film, and neither Tai nor any other animal performer in the film was harmed in any way during the making of this film. In fact, the organization circulating this video claims it was taken in 2005, which was at least five years before the movie went into production and at least a year before the book on which the movie is based was even published. Moreover, a representative from the American Humane Association was on set and monitored every instance in which animals were used and can confirm that no animals, including Tai, were mistreated in any way."

Yes, we get it, Fox! Your hands are clean!

But anybody who appreciates the film (the most poignant moments of which are when Rob soothes a beaten Tai) cannot leave that theater without wondering about all the animal torture--both with Tai and other circus attractions--that led to its inception, and ultimate success.

Neither Reese Witherspoon nor Rob's reps got back to us with a comment. No surprise that both stars are staying mum on the topic, although we personally think they should damn well speak up since Tai was such a sweet costar, not to mention she ultimately stole the whole movie from them.

PHOTO: Celebs' Very Important Pets