Activists for animal rights have demanded a boycott of Liam Neeson’s new film, The Grey, after the British actor revealed he ate wolf stew to prepare for his role.
In the movie, Liam Neeson, 59, plays the leader of a group of oil workers being hunted down by a pack of wolves after surviving a plane crash in the Arctic.
During the making of the film, the director suggested that cast members eat real wolf meat to “get into character”.
But while some were reluctant, Liam Neeson revealed that he “went up for seconds of the wolf stew”.
Furious members of animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said in a statement: “Neeson’s stance on kindness to animals is sorely out of step with the rest of the world.”
And arguing that instead of being predatory, wolves normally shy away from human contact, PETA urged cinema-goers: “Don’t just shy away. Run away from The Grey.”
Most of the wolf scenes in The Grey were shot using special effects, but PETA claims the film’s director Joe Carnahan ordered wolf carcasses from a trapper and that the animals would have suffered “horribly” before they died.
“Many animals caught in traps chew off their own limbs in order to escape,” said PETA spokeswoman Jane Dollinger.
“These animals go on to die of gangrene or other secondary infections, sometimes leaving nursing puppies abandoned to fend for themselves.
“Wolves are intelligent, family-oriented animals who mate for life and live in tightly bonded packs.
“Breaking up a wolf family causes loneliness, separation-anxiety, depression and grief.”
At a press conference to promote The Grey, Liam Neeson, who was born in County Antrim, said that while some cast members had been sick after eating the wolf meat, he was not fazed by the experience.
Liam Neeson said: “It was very gamey. But I’m Irish, so I’m used to odd stews. I can take it. Just throw a lot of carrots and onions in there and I’ll call it dinner.”
Wolf experts have joined PETA in its protest, claiming the film, which was shot in British Columbia in Canada, will incite Americans to slaughter wolves after falsely portraying them as man-eaters.
“Wolves pose no threat whatsoever to human beings,” said Jane Dollinger.
The animals faced extinction in the US until they were added to the endangered species list in many states.
In British Columbia, though there are just 8,000 left, it is still legal to kill them in traps.
Despite the animal rights protesters’ anger, The Grey has topped the American box-office charts since its release.
And reviews of the film have been sympathetic to Liam Neeson, noting a parallel with his character and tragic events in his own life.
Liam Neeson’s wife and mother of his two teenage sons, the English actress Natasha Richardson, died in 2009 from a head injury sustained in a skiing accident.
In The Grey it is suggested that Liam Neeson’s character has a death wish as a result of a tragedy involving his wife.
“Let’s just say that I had to do very little research,” Liam Neeson said of the role.
“I knew the emotions that had to be accessed. We just played the scenes of a man whose heart is broken.”
In addition to eating wolf meat, Liam Neeson did survivalist training to prepare for Canada’s sub-zero temperatures.
“I saw a documentary about this British man a few years ago who liked to swim through icebergs in Antarctica,” he said.
“He started preparing by taking freezing-cold showers for ten minutes every morning. I did the same thing to prepare for this movie, but I only got up to seven minutes.”
A spokeswoman for Liam Neeson referred questions about animal rights issues to the film’s producers, who declined to comment.