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[Movies] As Many As 27 Animals Died During The Making Of The Hobbit
Posted by Joseph Lee on 11.19.2012

CBS News reports that 27 animals died during the production of The Hobbit movie trilogy. Animal wranglers say the production company is to blame because the animals were kept on a farm with bluffs, sinkholes and other "death traps".

The American Humane Association, which was in charge of animal welfare, said that no animals were harmed during filming. It also claims that the complaints bring to light faults in their system, which monitor film sets but not where the animals are housed and trained. Matt Dravitzki, a spokesman for Peter Jackson said that horses, goats, chickens and one sheep died at the farm near Wellington where 150 animals were housed. He added that some of the deaths were natural causes. He said that the deaths of two horses were avoidable but the production company tried to improve conditions after the deaths.

The first film in the $500 million trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, will premiere on November 28 in Wellington and everywhere else in December. PETA plans to protest the premieres in New Zealand, the US and the UK.

Four wranglers said that the farm was not suitable for horses because of bluffs, sinkholes and broken-down fences. They complained to their bosses and the production company (owned by Warner Bros) but it was still used. They added they wanted to prevent more deaths so they went public. One wrangler said he buried three horses, six goats, six sheep and a dozen chickens. The wranglers added that two more horses had severe injuries but survived.

Wrangler Chris Langridge said he was hired as a trainer in November 2010, overseeing 50 or more horses. He added that he tried to fill in the sinkholes (made by underground streams) and even brought in his own fences to keep the horses away from dangerous areas. Horses run at speeds of 20 mph and he says they need to be on flat land. He added: "It's just a no-brainer."

Langridge and his wife Lynn eventually quit in February 2011. They sent an email to Brigitte Yorke, the production manager, to complain. He said he responded to her request for more information but never had a reply after that.

Wranger Johnny Smythe said more animals died after Langridge left. He claims one of the horses died because of digestive problems caused by new feed. Meanwhile, the six goats and sheep fell into sinkholes, got worms or getting new feed after the grass was eaten. The chickens were left out of their enclosure and a dozen were mauled by dogs. Smythe was fired in October 2011 after arguing with his boss over the treatment.

Jackson's spokesman said the company reacted promptly after the first two horses died and spent thousands of dollars to improve the facilities in early 2011. He added: "We do know those deaths were avoidable and we took steps to make sure it didn't happen again."

The American Humane Association filed a report and investigated the farm at the production company's request. Mark Stubbs, a spokesman, said the investigation happened in August 2011, months after the first deaths. He said: "We made safety recommendations to the animals' living areas. The production company followed our recommendations and upgraded fence and farm housing, among other things."

Dravitzki said the company made the changes by the time the AHA recommended them. He also said the timing seems questionable with the film premiere so close, but producers are investigating and "are attempting to speak with all parties involved to establish the truth." He said the company no longer leases the farm and doesn't have any animals left there. He said he didn't know if animals will be needed for future filming in the trilogy, but added that Jackson himself adopted three of the pigs used.


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