COPENHAGEN, Denmark, March 3 (UPI) -- Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier has cut a scene showing the slaughter of a donkey from his new movie "Manderlay," the Danish news agency Ritzau reported.
The scene showed starving people in a small town carving up the animal -- which had been put down by veterinarians before the cameras rolled. Actor John C. Reilly, best known for his Oscar-nominated performance in "Chicago," quit the production over the incident last April.
"Manderlay" -- starring Danny Glover and Lauren Bacall -- is the second of a set of three movies planned by von Trier. The filmmaker issued a statement saying he cut the scene because he did not want it to distract from the movie's message.
"Animal welfare is important, but the welfare of humans is in my eyes even more important," he said, "and that includes freedom of expression and the right to a political debate."
The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals issued a statement calling von Trier "a talented and very creative movie-maker," but also suggested he could "find more enlightened and humane ways to shock and/or move his audiences without going for the cheap and cruel killing of an animal."