PETA Asks Law Enforcement to Investigate ‘Hobbit’ Death Trap

Published by Michelle Kretzer.

Following PETA’s release last week of disturbing whistleblower reports of 27 animal deaths during the filming of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, we have asked authorities in New Zealand, where The Hobbit was filmed, to investigate and pursue appropriate criminal charges if warranted.

The five whistleblowers, all wranglers who worked on the film set, allege the following:

  • Two geldings ran a pony named Rainbow off an embankment in the paddock that they were all housed in. The next morning, Rainbow was found still alive and suffering, with his neck and back broken, and had to be euthanized.
  • A horse named Doofus was housed with two geldings even though they had already injured the pony. He was subsequently found tangled in the fence, the skin and muscles torn from his leg, surrounded by hoofprints that indicated a fight.
  • A horse named Clare was run over a bank by other horses in her paddock, most likely because there was not sufficient space or grass for them all. She was found with her neck broken and her head submerged in the river.
  • A horse named Zeppelin died suddenly after displaying symptoms of colic, which can result from feeding grain to a horse who isn’t accustomed to it. Zeppelin’s typical diet was grass and hay, but he was fed grain on the set.
  • A horse named Shanghai was hobbled (his legs were tied together so that he couldn’t move) and left lying on the ground for more than three hours. The resulting rope burns were covered up for filming. Hobbling is a violation of the guidelines of the American Humane Association (AHA), the agency that monitors the treatment of animals on film and television productions.
  • A horse named Molly became tangled in wire fencing in her paddock, tearing the skin and muscle from her leg.
  • Numerous goats and sheep died from worm infestations and from falling into sinkholes.
  • Twelve chickens were killed by dogs who weren’t properly supervised.

Reportedly, the AHA monitors who were supposed to be ensuring the animals’ safety were overly friendly with the head trainer—who was himself distracted by other projects—and the AHA was absent for many of the animal sequences. Allegedly, three horses died before the AHA investigated and recommended improvements in housing. The wranglers also report that they voiced their concerns to the unit production manager but were ignored.

In September, PETA contacted the AHA about reported problems on The Hobbit set, but we’ve yet to receive a response. PETA wrote to director Peter Jackson to find out what, if anything, he knew about the animals’ deaths during production. The man who brought us the superb computer-generated imagery (CGI) that won him our Proggy (for “progress”) Award for King Kong has the ability to make the animals and other interesting creatures in his movies 100 percent CGI, and PETA calls on him to do so again.

In the age of Oscar-winning digital effects, there is no reason why a single animal should suffer for a film. Join PETA in urging Jackson to continue to use cutting-edge CGI and give his assurance that no animal will ever suffer again for one of his movies.

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“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind