As I mentioned, we saw Lincoln this past weekend. One of the previews was for The Hobbit, the much anticipated Peter Jackson film which opens in a few weeks.
But, the film isn’t without controversy.
Several animal wranglers used on the film say that up to 27 animals died on the New Zealand ranch where they were being housed and trained due to poor living conditions. The wranglers also claim that many animals were hurt and had to be euthanized, including a horse named Rainbow that broke its back. Yet another horse reportedly died after falling over a bluff and drowned in a stream. Wranglers said goats and sheet died after falling into sinkholes or contracting worms while chickens were mauled to death by dogs.
One wrangler and his wife quit due to the reported abuse.
While Jackson’s people will confirm that several horses, goats, chickens, and a sheep died at the ranch, but point out that it was due to natural causes. The American Humane Association, which supervises animal welfare in films, said it probed the deaths and found that no animals died or were harmed during the filming, but did issue safety recommendations, which Jackson said his people followed. The filmmaker released a statement which read, “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.”
Needless to say, PETA was not happy and sent a letter to Jackson, saying the deaths could have been avoided. It calls the deaths on the farm “needless and unacceptable.” The organization plans to protest at the premiere of The Hobbit at several venues.
Jackson and Warner Bros. blame disgruntled wranglers who were dismissed for stirring up the controversy. Jackson released a statement on Facebook that said, ‘To date, the only horse wranglers whose treatment of animals fell below the production’s standard of care seem to be the two wranglers who have chosen to level this new accusation on the eve of the premiere of the first Hobbit film and who were dismissed by the production over a year ago.”