Peter Jackson Responds to Allegations of Unsafe Conditions for Animals in The Hobbit

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For months, fan’s have been patiently awaiting for the release of the highly anticipated The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, but with it’s New Zealand premiere only a few days away a dark cloud has risen over Peter Jackson and his production team. Allegations have surfaced that claim the location that housed animals for the production was an unsafe environment and lead to the deaths of as many as 27 animals.

The American Humane Association’s initiative “No Animals Were Harmed” has protected animals on sets for over 70 years, but with these new allegations the AHA is asking for a larger jurisdiction and additional funding that will allow them to monitor the animals off-set as well.

“We are currently only empowered to monitor animal actors while they are working on production sets,” said AHA President and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert in a recent statement.

“We do not have either the jurisdiction or funding to extend that oversight to activities or conditions off set or before animals come under our protection. 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.”

The AHA had originally drafted and asked for the additional funding back in January, but upon hearing the allegations from the The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey set, they have began to push the initiative harder. According to the Associated Press, four animal wranglers who worked on the film claimed that the production team is responsible for the death of 27 animals due to the farm’s conditions.

The farm was 186 miles away from the main set of the The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and 26 miles away from the soundstage. The wranglers claimed that the Wellington farm, which the horses and other animals were being housed, contained dangerous bluffs, sinkholes and broken-down fences, which endangered the lives of the animals.

A press release from the AHA stated they went beyond their normal jurisdiction of just monitoring the sets and went to the farm to examine the land, after which they made various safety recommendations and suggested ways that the farm could be improved.

“We must bring the same high degree of safety and humane treatment that has been achieved on the set to animals throughout their life, including training, housing, and safe, dignified retirement.We owe it to these hard-working and beloved members of our community, just as we work to take care of their human counterparts. Anything less is unacceptable,” Ganzert said.

The allegations made by the wranglers of naturally caused a stir with all animal protective agencies. According the Hollywood Reporter plans on protesting the premiere of the film in New Zealand on Nov. 28.

Upon hearing the news of the allegations made against him and his production team, Jackson released a statement where he denies that there was any harm caused to the animals. He even stated that most of the shots that feature animals in fight scenes are computed generated. Read of Jacksons’ statement below.

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 27 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 55 percent 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.

Sadly this was not the end of accusations against Jackson and his team. PETA has publicly accused the production team of using an injured horse during filming, causing the team to provide yet another statement last night reading:

The Hobbit production has always instituted swift and immediate investigations in to any concerns of any kind over the treatment of animals under its care. A prompt and thorough investigation into the recent unsubstantiated allegations by the American organization, PETA, in to the ‘hobbling’ of a horse during the making of The Hobbit was undertaken. No evidence of such a practice was found to have occurred at any tim.  Further, the production contacted the owner of the horse concerned who provided the following statement: ‘I am 100% happy with the return of Shanghai and his condition. In the term that he was leased he was picked up and returned to me two times. On both occasions there was not a mark on him and he was healthy and happy. He has shown no signs of ill-treatment. I would not hesitate in leasing him to the movie again.’”

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has it’s New Zealand premiere Nov. 28 and hits theaters in North America on Dec. 14.

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