Paramount Network Denies Accusation That Cow Corpses Were ‘Mutilated’ for Kevin Costner’s ‘Yellowstone’

PETA calls out Oscar winner, producers over a whistleblower’s accusation of animal carcass mistreatment on hit western series

Kevin Costner in 'Yellowstone'
Paramount Network

Paramount Network has denied PETA’s accusation that “Yellowstone” producers allowed real cow corpses to be “mutilated” on the set of its hit Kevin Costner western series, calling the claims “inaccurate.”

“Paramount Network takes animal safety very seriously and with utmost professionalism,” Kurt Patat, Paramount Network SVP of communications told TheWrap on Wednesday afternoon. “The production has taken necessary precautions to provide for animal safety and their well-being on set. All animals are monitored on set by professional handlers. We have been in touch with PETA which presented us with inaccurate claims that we were able to correct including no cows were killed or mutilated for the scene in question.”

Earlier on Wednesday, the animal rights organization said a “whistleblower” told them that “dead cows’ hindquarters and necks had been hacked apart” for use as props, and that “the bodies of others were likely left to rot in the sun or manipulated in order to appear bloated for a scene.”

PETA’s whistleblower added that “concerns from crew members who questioned why fake cows weren’t being used instead were essentially shrugged off,” according to the animal rights group.

The crew has found it “almost impossible” to wash the stench from the decomposing carcasses off their bodies, PETA reported.

There’s a real danger associated with all of the gore, PETA argued: “Exposure to animal carcasses can cause disease transmission to humans and lead to contamination of the environment.”

PETA’s veterinarian expert shared two studies with TheWrap to back up the accusation. For those interested in learning more, click here for one from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and here for another from the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.

“The slaughterhouse industry is a violent and cruel one, and to use the bodies of animals who were subjected to that cruelty for a TV stunt is not only disrespectful but also extremely wasteful,” PETA senior vice president Lisa Lange said in a statement on Wednesday. “PETA is calling on Kevin Costner and the producers of ‘Yellowstone’ to come clean about how and from where the animals were purchased, cut the gruesome scenes, and pledge to use only props and other cruelty-free alternatives in the future.”

PETA said it sent letters to Costner, series co-creator Taylor Sheridan, and to Paramount Network about the issue, and that they had gone mostly unanswered. In the letters, PETA said it also raised concerns about an upcoming rodeo scene.

“Instead of using existing stock footage as PETA suggested, the production reportedly banned cell phones on set to prevent the crew from documenting and leaking more photos,” said the animal rights group.

Should any readers be wondering at this point why it matters if one does manipulate or even mutilate an already-dead animal, we asked PETA to explain that in its own words for our audience.

“It matters because using the cows’ bodies for television props is wasteful, and we still don’t have clear answers from the production as to where the cows came from, when and where they were slaughtered, who ordered the slaughter, when they were transported to the set, etc.,” a PETA spokeswoman replied in an email on Wednesday. “As was the case with bison on ‘Alpha,’ cows for ‘Yellowstone’ very well could have been intentionally slaughtered for the show — and so far, we don’t have information proving otherwise. In addition, by purchasing the cows, the production supported one of the most violent, abusive industries in existence, and allegedly mutilating their corpses is a whole new level of disturbing that even the least sensitive of people should be upset by.”

Following Paramount Network’s statement of denial, the PETA rep said the following to TheWrap:

PETA stands by the accusation. According to the whistleblower, scenes with dead cows took place over several days and bodies were hacked apart, as evidenced by the photo that was shared with PETA, which Paramount has yet to explain. When we asked Paramount for specifics on where and when the animals were procured and at what part of the process, they went silent. Paramount’s vague denials echo ‘Alpha’s,’ and that film lost its American Humane certification after an investigation confirmed that animals were killed for production. If Paramount had nothing to hide, it would have come clean about where the cows came from instead of going on to ban cell phones from set while shooting a controversial rodeo scene.