‘The Hobbit’: Report Alleges Animal Deaths During Production; Peter Jackson Denies Claim

Published 2 years ago by

Hobbit Animal Deaths Martin Freeman The Hobbit: Report Alleges Animal Deaths During Production; Peter Jackson Denies Claim

Ever since the 1939 film Jesse James caused a public uproar over a scene of blatant animal cruelty, the American Humane Association has overseen most every Hollywood production to verify – in the infamous words contained in the credits of countless movies – “No animals were harmed during the production of this film.” For over seventy years, any film that has failed to gain the AHA’s seal of approval has been met with controversy and notoriety.

However, the Humane Association may have its work cut out for it in the case of one of the biggest upcoming blockbusters of the season. Former employees who worked on The Hobbit Trilogy – films that the AHA had previously given their full approval – have accused the film’s staff of allowing over two-dozen animals to die under their care.

In a report published this morning and carried by numerous news outlets, The Associated Press quotes wranglers who say that 27 of their charges died during production of The Hobbit trilogy. The extensive piece features testimony by four wranglers who assert that the New Zealand farm where animals were housed between production days was a “death trap” filled with dangerous sinkholes, cliffs, and improper accommodations. According to these sources, The Hobbit‘s production company refused to address early concerns of its wranglers, which lead to horses, goats, sheep, and chickens dying while on the farm. Most of these deaths are alleged to be from avoidable accidents and poor dietary care.

Peter Jackson and his production company have issued a statement in response to the AP’s allegations, categorically denying that the animals’ deaths constituted mistreatment. Though the production staff were aware of the deaths, they insist that considerable funds were devoted to improving the animals’ living conditions. Furthermore, the statement emphasizes that the production went out of its way to avoid harming animals during filming, going so far as to never use live animals during action sequences.

The American Humane Association responded to the charges of abuse by noting that it has already given The Hobbit Trilogy its approval. Organization spokespeople acknowledge that there were complaints filed about the farm and that the facilities were investigated by AHA staff. Numerous improvements and upgrades were apparently made to the farm, its buildings, and the surrounding fencing on the AHA’s recommendation. Despite their insistence that the animal deaths do not constitute active harm, representatives of the AHA have voiced concern over whether the incident indicates flaws in the organization’s oversight.

Hobbit Animal Deaths Landscape The Hobbit: Report Alleges Animal Deaths During Production; Peter Jackson Denies Claim

Did the New Zealand landscape contribute to animal deaths?

It will be interesting to see what steps the American Humane Association takes in response to these allegations. With the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey only weeks away, it’s doubtful that the organization will retract its endorsement. Nonetheless, this will no doubt lead to further investigations of the production’s treatment of animals both on and off the set. It may even cause the AHA to revise its policy of off-set attention and perhaps their overall standards of review.

While these allegations do not point to outright malice or cruelty on the part of the production, they may point to a possible atmosphere of negligence. Unfortunately, the purely accidental nature of the animals’ demises makes any solid conclusions difficult – if not impossible. One thing is for sure: if The Hobbit‘s higher-ups did indeed ignore requests for better housing, it will tarnish the reputation of a director known for his considerate, thorough productions.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey arrives in theaters on December 14, 2012.


Source: The Associated Press (via Entertainment Weekly and The Wrap)

TAGS: The hobbit
Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:


Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to Gravatar.com and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.

If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it. Keep in mind that we do not allow external links in the comments.

  1. wow not cool.

  2. That’s too bad. Well, at least no people were killed.

  3. I wonder if an hobbits, dwarves, orcs, trolls, wizards or gollums were injured in the making of this movie?

    • I like how you think witty insensitive remarks are funny. It’s just so great. You are so funny.

      • Oh get a grip!

        • No, you need to get a grip – on your decency.

          You clearly can’t ‘grip’ why comments that reveal indifference to animal cruelty might be offensive to others.

          Don’t worry though – you’re not alone, there’s a whole internet full of top-notch people who make light of cruelty, it’s really hilarious and you should become a stand-up, along with the other fine specimens in the comments below.

          Please, stick around! Your wit and intelligence are really needed.

    • Charlie, I agree. Sadly there’s quite a few adolescent trolls commenting on this post. To them cruelty to innocent animals is hilarious. It’s beyond them to feel for anyone or anything but themselves.

      But the last laugh is really on them – they’re born with something missing inside. They’re to be pitied as emotional cripples but ignored as they type furiously in mom’s basement, desperate for the attention no one gives them in the real world, thinking the hate and cruelty they spew is hysterical.

      • As far as I can see, no comments made on this story are insensitive, cruel or hateful. No one has said they enjoy hearing or reading about cruelty to animals. May I ask that the critical way you judge other peoples posts you apply to your own? Calling others hateful emotional cripples seems to go against the point your trying to make in your own post.

        • “As far as I can see, no comments made on this story are insensitive, cruel or hateful. No one has said they enjoy hearing or reading about cruelty to animals.”

          Are you actually serious? The following comments were already on this site before you posted:

          “What’s the big deal? Just eat them instead…”
          “Who cares”

          Those weren’t insensitive? Read all the posts below before attacking me instead of the trolls, it’ll save embarrassment. If I sound self righteous, tough. Having seen animal cruelty up close and personal, those who make a joke of it will get no leeway from me – nor should they.

          • What an over reaction, it is human nature to make light of many difficult situations, I was not being insensitive, cruel or hateful to anybody and my deepest sympathy goes out to all the animals injured or killed and their families, I was refering to the opening statement regarding the making of Jesse James and why that line ‘no harm to animals etc’ is now stated at the closing of a movie!

      • Underseer,
        thank you for speaking up about this. We live in an extremely violent society because people allow it to happen and do not take it seriously.

  4. Nobody condones animal cruelty, and unless it was blatant acts of a dangerous nature will filming that killed the animals, I don’t see how all of the blame can fall on Jackson. I don’t know how things are run in New Zealand, but if this was indeed a farm I would think that there is some form of oversight in place there that governs how farms should operate.

    • wouldnt you assume the farm being used is in control of or atleast being paid by the company that is making the film. The blame shouldnt be all on jackson or even at all, more WB if anything. You would assume with the money they make from these films they would make sure the farm used is the best possible. Which obviously it wasnt.

  5. Oh no, here comes PETA and their retarded wrath… I can already see those idiots on premier night…

  6. OH FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!! Okay so New Zealand’s animal safety isn’t the same as ours! How is that PJ’s fault? I bet it’s just the “wranglers union” b****ing because they didn’t get paid enough.

  7. What’s the big deal? Just eat them instead…

  8. Ah, here’s the most important part of this article…”The American Humane Association responded to the charges of abuse by noting that it has already given The Hobbit Trilogy its approval. Organization spokespeople acknowledge that there were complaints filed about the farm and that the facilities were investigated by AHA staff. Numerous improvements and upgrades were apparently made to the farm, its buildings, and the surrounding fencing on the AHA’s recommendation.”

    Enough said. Methinks someone here just wants a part of the money pie that will be The Hobbit trilogy.

  9. Poor creatures :( Sad,but I can’t see how the can put all blame on Peter !
    There are people responsible for that job ! Peters is directing and taking care of the film ! They should ask who ever leads the farm ! Maybe he is the guy to do a better job ! But what do know !

  10. Who cares

    • I think you’ll find a everyone apart from you.

  11. I have to laugh. Some here read one article, alleging animal cruelty, and they automatically assume the worst and point their fingers at Peter Jackson, et al. Immediately judgmental without being fully informed. So, were you there? No? Perhaps you should let those involved resolve the matter, then.

    • I have no idea whether or not there were abuses on the Hobbit or any other Jackson production. Or if they indeed did happen, that Jackson was even aware of them.

      I absolutely agree there must be proof – anyone with a grudge can make an allegation.

      My objection, and those of some others, is to the trollish comments on this article that find animal cruelty a source of amusement. I’ve probably fed the trolls by getting uptight, I know, but it’s a sore point for me.

      • Underseer – I like how if someone has a different perspective than yours, that makes them a troll.

        I grew up on a farm. Animals die. It’s a fact of life. 27 died during production the article states…how long was production? Which animals died? One horse, one sheep, a goat, and two dozen chickens? I’d believe that because chickens are dumb animals. Someone created this uproar to get animal activists up in arms about cruelty during production of a major motion picture. Jeff is right, we aren’t fully informed. Until all the facts are out there for public viewing, I’ll keep on trolling onto other articles.

        • Well said PP, some people have been using this site long enough to be aware of what is appropriate and what is not, adding humour to a situation does not make you a troll, while the alleged death of 27 animals is sad, in comparison to the 7 billion chickens slaughtered each year in the US alone, 27 farm yard animals is literally a fart in the wind! At least they got to star in a movie, had fulfilling lives and served more purpose than to just be grown, cooped up, killed, plucked and fried!

        • Good comment, PP. I believe the production was years long, so it is certainly not unexpected that some animals would die during that time. In addition to your asking what animals died, I wonder how old they were to begin with, how healthy they were, etc. The causes of death could be manifold, but of course, if it happened on a movie set, then there “must” be some foul play involved…

          • 3 horses died, 2 were injured in the first 4 months of production. Is that acceptable? I don’t think so.

        • I grew up on a farm too. If 3 horses died and 2 were injured in the space of 4 months I would be concerned. But I guess different people have different standards of animal care than others.

  12. Has anyone heard of what is commonly called an “accident”? Accidents happened – improvements were made – no more accidents. Sounds like pretty good management to me.

    • Didn’t even necessarily have to be an “accident”. Animals could have been old or unhealthy to begin with, and the production was years long.

  13. The AHA ALWAYS has been a rubber stamp authority. They’ll rubber stamp ANYTHING if they are given a big enough fee.

    Case in point, Disney killed (allowed to die) an entire cast of puppies in one of their dog films a few years ago, the pups were far too young and should never have been handled or allowed outside, all dead. The AHA rubber stamped that film too.
    Screw them, if they don’t retract their endorsement KNOWING FULL WELL that animals have been allowed to die on set then they are of no use and themselves should be liable for criminal procedures.

    ANY company with the power of oversight in any area should be penalised if they fail to uphold their duty.

  14. Hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of animals were slaughtered to feed all those involved in this production. Everyone of these animals would fall under some category of abuse.

    An article about 27 is almost a joke . .

    If you can’t handle the reality of the world, then perhaps keep your eyes closed.

  15. The person who is most at fault in this is not Peter Jackson. It is the Animal Coordinator Steve Old.
    He was responsible for leasing that farm which was a hilly sheep farm unsuitable for horses. Several other suitable properties were put forward by the horse trainer that would have cost the same amount.
    He was also responsible for hiring staff that were not qualified to look after horses and vetoed every attempt of the horse trainer to hire suitable staff. He also prevented the horse trainer from making sensible training decisions. He insisted on letting his girlfriend train horses even though she was not qualified to even be riding them and caused many problems with their training when she did ride them. He also insisted on other unqualified people being allowed to ride horses.
    Steve Old also did not put any safe and appropriate training facilities in place. This was because he wanted to ensure he got the job by coming in under the budget outlined by another more qualified Animal Coordinator. He prevented the horse trainer from putting any facilities in place other than those that the horse trainer paid for out of his own pocket.
    Steve Old turned a blind eye to wilful abuse of animals – one case in which his own father was the abuser of a pig. This same person – Les Old – also sexually harassed a female staff member. When she told Steve that Les had groped her Steve fired her.
    Steve used production money and resources on his own private projects such as The Great NZ Trek. He pulled staff members away from caring for the animals on the film and sent them to do work on projects elsewhere during which time they were paid with film money.
    He bullied staff members into keeping quiet about any negative aspects of their work and told them they would be fired if they didn’t fall into line.

  16. I agree with underseer. People can think what they want of course but being so disrespectful to the dead animals in the making of this movie is just disgusting.

    But I also think accidents happen, and I am not angry with the people making this movie for this. I think it should have been better thought through, but I’m not gonna sit and hold grudge against them