Animal wranglers are accusing Peter Jackson and Warner Bros of negligence that caused the deaths of 27 animals during the filming of The Hobbit. The wranglers say the animals used in the film were being kept at some dangerous, Saw-esque torture farm that they actually called “a deathtrap” in the AP report. Jackson, meanwhile, says many of the deaths in question were from “natural causes.” And if boredom is considered a natural cause, being on the set of The Hobbit in New Zealand for a year definitely seems like something that would do it. Yadda yadda yadda, PETA will be protesting all the premieres.
The Associated Press spoke to four wranglers who said the farm near Wellington was unsuitable for horses because it was peppered with bluffs, sinkholes, broken-down fencing and other “death traps.”. They said they repeatedly raised concerns about the farm with their superiors and the production company, owned by Warner Bros., but it continued to be used. They say they want their story aired publicly now to prevent similar deaths in the future.
The American Humane Association, which is overseeing animal welfare on the films, says no animals were harmed during the actual filming. But it also says the wranglers’ complaints highlight shortcomings in its oversight system, which monitors film sets but not the facilities where the animals are housed and trained.
One wrangler said that over time he buried three horses, as well as about six goats, six sheep and a dozen chickens.
Because he’s crazy! He tried to bury an entire team of live oxen until we tied him to a tree, where he shouted “but the gnomes need them to plow!” until he passed out.
The wranglers say two more horses suffered severe injuries but survived.
Wrangler Chris Langridge said he was hired as a horse trainer in November 2010, overseeing 50 or so horses, but immediately became concerned that the farm was full of “death traps.” He said he tried to fill in some of the sinkholes, made by underground streams, and even brought in his own fences to keep the horses away from the most dangerous areas. Ultimately, he said, it was an impossible task.
My take away from this is that a hole in the ground can be considered a “death trap” for horses, who are incapable of watching where they’re walking. “What, you can’t just put a cliff at the end of the farm and expect the horse not to run off it, it’s a horse! They’re nothing but majesty and sawdust brains, like Maxim models! “
He said horses run at speeds of up to 30 mph and need to be housed on flat land: “It’s just a no-brainer.”
The first horse to die, he said, was a miniature named Rainbow.
I know that’s very sad, but a mini-horse named Rainbow is hilarious. FACT. I hope the guy kept a wallet-sized picture of Rainbow frolicking in the snow, and whenever he had second thoughts about risking his job security to blow the whistle on these violations, he took out the picture, balled his hand into a fist and whispered, “This one’s for you, Rainbow.”
Swear to God, I found this picture five years ago and named it “Magical Rainbow Pony.”
“When I arrived at work in the morning, the pony was still alive but his back was broken. He’d come off a bank at speed and crash-landed,” Langridge said. “He was in a bad state.”
Rainbow, who had been slated for use as a hobbit horse, was euthanized. A week later, a horse named Doofus got caught in some fencing and sliced open its leg. That horse survived, but Langridge said he’d had enough
DAMMIT, AP, STOP MAKING ME LAUGH AT THE DEAD HORSES! Maybe next time don’t include the horses names in the report. “A beagle, Fartknocker, was torn apart in a thresher accident Wednesday night.” See? Kind of ruins what you’re trying to do there.
Dravitzki, the spokesman for Peter Jackson, said the production company reacted swiftly after the first two horses died, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars upgrading housing and stable facilities in early 2011. [AP]
While the AHA routinely monitors animal welfare on the film sets, ensuring that veterinary care is available on site, in this case the group also took the initiative in restoring safe conditions to the ranch, where the deaths occurred. As a result of that experience, the AHA — backed by PETA — is seeing formal recognition of its right to monitor conditions at facilities where film animals are kept.
“We do not (currently) have either the jurisdiction or funding to extend … oversight to activities or conditions off set or before animals come under our protection,” AHA president and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert said. “There are too many incidents off the set, and this must stop. It is vital that we work with the industry to bring the kind of protection we have for animals during filming to all phases of production.” [THR]
And there’s the rub. Not to minimize the horse deaths like I’ve already done by making fun of them (I’m sorry, truly), but the AHA is trying to make this case sound especially bad to make an example out of it so they can be allowed to monitor facilities where animals are kept. And that might be a perfectly reasonable request, but it’s somewhat undercut by the support from PETA, who have lots of other, unreasonable requests. As usual, I’m sure the truth lies somewhere near the middle. I don’t doubt some big movie producer like Jerry Bruckheimer would cut a corgi puppy’s belly open if he thought there was a nickel in it, and his animal facilities should probably be monitored. But probably not by some old crazy hippie lady who thinks leashing your dog makes you a slave owner.