Zac Efron and Kodiak Cakes, a pancake and waffle mix brand, have been called out over a new campaign that features the former High School Musical star alongside a captive bear.
Animal rights organization PETA believes the new campaign is hypocritical. In a new campaign, Efron can be seen joking and interacting with 27-year-old Tank, a brown bear born into captivity.
Merchandise profits are being donated to the Grizzly Bear Foundation. But PETA maintains that “no true conservation group would ever force captive animals to perform tricks for the camera in order to raise awareness about their wild counterparts.”
Efron is Kodiak Cakes’ chief brand officer and told Forbes he felt a connection to the brand’s priorities, including wildlife conservation.
“The fact that they’ve made a lot of efforts in wellness, wildlife conservation, and sustainability connects with me. It feels like food with a purpose,” he said.
On-screen animal exploitation
Tank was previously featured in Man Vs. Bear, a Discovery series that sees contestants compete against grizzly bears in strength and endurance tasks. But PETA wants to see an end to all on-screen animal exploitation.
It has called on Kodiak Cakes to either remove its advert or replace Tank with a CGI alternative.
“Treating Tank like a prop and not appreciating that, unlike Zac, he’ll never get to choose his roles is a form of speciesism,” Debbie Metzler, PETA’s director of captive animal welfare told Metro.
“Peta urges Kodiak Cakes and Efron to focus on truly protecting wild bears by leaving Tank and any other performing animals out of their ads.”
Zac Efron’s animal advocacy
Efron has experimented with plant-based eating in the past but has seemingly never labeled himself as vegan.
In his Netflix series Down to Earth, he admitted that plant-based food wouldn’t appeal to him until it started to get more mainstream and comparable to conventional food items.
Despite not being vegan, Efron was a cast member on Save Ralph, a stop motion mockumentary produced by the Humane Society of the United States. He joined Ricky Gervais, Taika Waititi, and Olivia Munn to try to end global animal testing.
This year, the film won the Cannes Lions Festival’s prestigious Grand Prix for Good award.