Update: An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed these comments to the Humane Society. It was in fact The American Humane Association, a separate organization, which spoke out against the producers of The Hobbit. The Humane Society emailed us that “The Humane Society of the United States is not affiliated with AHA and we have not made a comment about the film or the unfortunate death of these animals.” We are sorry for the confusion and for misattributing those comments.
Apparently 27 animals died on a farm that was connected with production for The Hobbit, including three horses, over a dozen chickens and several goats and sheep. Some of the deaths sound like neglect and abuse, including a horse being tied up by its legs for hours, and chickens dying due to exposure. Other animal deaths were due to the poor conditions on the farm where the animals were being kept. The farm had a lot of dangerous terrain like sinkholes, creeks and dropoffs. Even more horses suffered injuries that were serious but not fatal. Four horse trainers repeatedly warned production that the animals were in danger, but their pleas fell on deaf ears and more animals needlessly died. It’s very sad and seems more than preventable. (You can read more about it here.)
Of course PETA weighed in on this early, and now a more legitimate animal rights organization, The American Humane Association, has condemned the production company. Representatives from The American Humane Association did visit the set in New Zealand to make sure animals were being treated properly. They signed off on production, but didn’t see the poor conditions where the animals were being housed until many animals perished.
In light of the shocking revelation that 27 animals died during filming of the The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the American Humane Association has issued a statement slamming the safety on the blockbuster movie set.
“The injuries and deaths of animals living at the working farm where some of the animal actors from The Hobbit were also being housed were needless and unacceptable,” said the association, which has protected more than a million animals and claims to have a 99.98 percent safety record, in an e-mail to RadarOnline.com.
“The organization renewed its call to the entertainment industry asking for additional jurisdiction and funding to keep animal actors safe not only while they are working on set, but off set as well to address illegitimate suppliers of animals and to ensure proper training, housing and retirement of these important and beloved co-stars of film and television.”
The AHA had previously come under fire by PETA as despite there being a representative at the Wellington, New Zealand, filming location, wranglers revealed shockingly dangerous conditions on the farm, that was filled with bluffs, sinkholes and other “death traps.”
As RadarOnline.com previously reported, four of the trainers on Peter Jackson’s latest installment of the fantasy franchise became whistleblowers and divulged details including the deaths of three horses and numerous sheep, goats, and chickens, sparking an investigation by PETA spanning several months.
In defense of their staff member, the AHA President and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert revealed to Radar, “We are currently only empowered to monitor animal actors while they are working on production sets. We do not have either the jurisdiction or funding to extend that oversight to activities or conditions off set or before animals come under our protection.
“There are too many incidents off the set and this must stop. It is vital that we work with the industry to bring the kind of protection we have for animals during filming to all phases of production.
“Because of American Humane Association’s monitoring of the animal action, which included having a licensed veterinarian on the scene, no animals were harmed on set during filming of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
“However, upon learning of injuries and deaths of animals while being housed at a working farm 186 miles from the main set and 26 miles from the soundstage, American Humane Association went beyond its jurisdiction and authority to visit, examine and make safety recommendations and improvements to the farm. These recommendations were implemented a year ago, bringing a higher level of animal welfare to all animals living on the site into the future.
“We owe it to these hard-working and beloved members of our community, just as we work to take care of their human counterparts,” Ganzert concluded. “Anything less is unacceptable.”
PETA sent a letter to Oscar winning director Jackson highlighting the multitude of horrors on his movie set, and after receiving what they described as a “thoroughly unsatisfactory response” from Jackson, PETA will now be protesting the world premieres of The Hobbit in New Zealand, England and the U.S and demanding a date of when they might hear the outcome of Jackson’s own internal investigation.
This story is confusing, particularly that it’s coming out now when production is well over, and when improvements were supposedly made to the animals’ living conditions over a year ago. (Although for once I agree with PETA protesting something.) What I want to know is how bad things have to be on a farm for that many animals to needlessly die? It sounds like the trainers made it more than clear that animals were in immediate danger but that nothing was done at all until the American Humane Association got involved again. Honestly it makes me want to skip this film, although it’s going to be such a blockbuster I’ll have a hard time staying away.
Production was permanently shut down on HBO’s Luck after three horses died on set. Many more animals died here and no one in charge took it as a wake up call and just pressed on. Other than the bad publicity, I doubt that the production company will face any consequences here. This movie is going to make a ton of money and they couldn’t be bothered to spend just a tiny fraction more to make sure their animal actors were safe.
Also, director Peter Jackson has adopted three pigs used in the film. Did he do it because he loves pigs or was it damage control? Is he going to eat them as meat? I have no problem with that if they’re treated well, I’m just asking.