Earlier today a report from the AP came out stating that twenty-seven animals had died during the making of “The Hobbit” movies, with information coming from people who had worked as animal wranglers on the set of the films. The animals’ use in the film was overseen by the American Humane Association, which affirmed today that no animal had died or been harmed on the set of the films. However, the former wranglers charge that the deaths occurred off the set, at the locations where the animals were kept during filming. They state that the farm was in unsafe condition, with potholes and sinkholes that resulted in broken bones and fatal injuries to horses, sheep, goats, and other animals.
Here is the response from the producers of “The Hobbit.”
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.
Deadline notes that there were accusations that horses had been abused during the filming of “The Lord of the Rings” movies, but that an investigation had shown those to be false. So I guess the message here is to proceed with caution.
How do I feel, as an animal lover who cares deeply about animal welfare? Well, as noted above, I’m not ready to make any judgement yet. On one hand, it doesn’t make sense to me that a production company would be careless in its treatment of animals simply because they cost money and it would take more time and money to replace them. On the other, there are stupid people involved in every business who make mistakes. So I just don’t know yet. If it was proven right now, definitively, that the production company was negligent, yes, I would think very deeply about seeing the movie and there’s a very good chance I would skip it; I’d like to see it, I’m looking forward to it, but my world won’t end if I don’t. But it’s too shady right now for me to decide. All I can say is I’ll keep an eye on things as the story develops.