Animal rights charity PETA has defended director Lars von Trier over a disturbing scene in his new film - The House That Jack Built - that shows simulated graphic animal abuse.
The film starring Uma Thurman and Matt Dillon, which is currently garnering controversy at the Cannes Film Festival, has provoked horror among some audience members and critics.
The most shocking scene shows lead character - and serial killer - Jack, as a child. He cuts off a duckling's leg using a pair of pliers, then watches the animal drown after putting them back in a pond.
The film's trailer
According to PETA, it has released the statement in response to the 'numerous calls' it received regarding the film, defending the director for accurately depicting 'sickening' animal abuse - without actually hurting any animals.
The statement says: "PETA has confirmed that the 'leg' was created using movie magic and silicone parts. While depictions of gratuitous violence like this may leave viewers sickened, it’s true that serial killers, like the character in the film, often get their start by first torturing animals, making the scene all the more realistic and disturbing.
"PETA is also happy to report that the images of tigers in the movie were from stock footage, yet again proving that there’s no need to use live wild animals in productions, thanks to the many humane alternatives being embraced by filmmakers today."
The House That Jack Built will be released in U.S. theaters this fall.