Statement by WingNut Films (via Hollywood Reporter)
The producers of The Hobbit take the welfare of all animals very seriously and have always pursued the highest standard of care for animals in their charge. Any incidents that occurred that were brought to their attention as regards to this care were immediately investigated and appropriate action taken. This includes hundreds of thousands of dollars that were spent on upgrading housing and stable facilities in early 2011.
The producers completely reject the accusations that twenty seven animals died due to mistreatment during the making of the films. Extraordinary measures were taken to make sure that animals were not used during action sequences or any other sequence that might create undue stress for the animals involved. Over fifty five per cent of all shots using animals in The Hobbit are in fact computer generated; this includes horses, ponies, rabbits, hedgehogs, birds, deer, elk, mice, wild boars, and wolves.
The American Humane Association (AHA) was on hand to monitor all use of animals by the production. No animals died or were harmed on set during filming.
We regret that some of these accusations by wranglers who were dismissed from the film over a year ago are only now being brought to our attention. We are currently investigating these new allegations and are attempting to speak with all parties involved to establish the truth.
Press Release – PETA
PETA US has alerted Peter Jackson, director of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, to a slew of animal injuries and deaths on the production’s New Zealand set.
In its letter, PETA US details allegations from four whistleblowers who worked as wranglers that all these incidents – including the deaths of three horses and numerous sheep, goats and chickens – could have been prevented if Jackson’s lead trainer and the head of production had fulfilled their duties and heeded the warnings of several wranglers.
“Two horses were run off embankments and sustained broken necks on the set of The Hobbit, at least one horse was left lying on the ground with his legs tied together for more than three hours, numerous goats and sheep used for the production died from worm infestations and from falling into sinkholes and a dozen unprotected chickens were killed by dogs”, says PETA US Senior Vice President Lisa Lange. “Peter Jackson’s films have been at the forefront of the special-effects revolution, but this production’s decision to use numerous live animals and allow them to suffer needlessly and die takes the entertainment industry a giant and disgraceful step backwards.”
Among the whistleblower allegations outlined in PETA US’ letter are the following:
• Two horses were run off embankments by other horses in their paddocks and sustained broken necks. One was euthanised, and the other was found dead with her face submerged in a river.
• The production team also allegedly ignored wranglers’ concerns over the danger that the animals were in. One wrangler was allegedly fired for expressing his concerns.
• A horse named Shanghai was hobbled (his legs were tied together so that he could not move) on set during a location shoot and left lying on the ground for more than three hours, reportedly because he was too active for his rider to handle. The rope burns on all of Shanghai’s legs that resulted from the hobbling were covered up with make-up and fake feathers (long hair on the legs of some horses) for filming. Hobbling is a violation of the guidelines of the American Humane Association (AHA) and an inappropriate way to deal with an energetic horse.
• A horse named Zeppelin died, likely of colic, after his diet was suddenly and drastically changed. The head animal wrangler allegedly declined a necropsy, and Zeppelin was quickly buried on site.
• The production’s AHA representative, whose expertise is reportedly in companion-animal medicine rather than equine care, was allegedly inappropriately friendly with the head animal wrangler and dismissive of the concerns of other wranglers. He was not present for many of the animal sequences.
PETA US’ letter to Peter Jackson is available upon request. For more information, please visit PETA.org.