Peter Jackson responds to allegations of animal cruelty on the set of The Hobbit films
A minor controversy erupted over the last couple of days regarding THE HOBBIT production. PETA issued a statement claiming that 27 animals were mistreated and killed during the production of Peter Jackson's films. THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY is slated to open on December 14th, so the timing seems to be positioned to maximize impact on box office for the movie.
Allegations often arise during big budget films that animals were mistreated. Jackson himself has dealt with these issues on past projects, including THE LORD OF THE RINGS. But, both Jackson and the studio have been quick to issue statements defending themselves. Jackson issued this via Facebook earlier today.
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 organisation, 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 time. 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.”
To date, the only horse wranglers whose treatment of animals fell below the production’s standard of care seem to be the two wranglers who have chosen to level this new accusation on the eve of the premiere of the first Hobbit film and who were dismissed by the production over a year ago. Reports of their actions are documented in several written statements dating back to October 2011.
The production regrets that PETA has chosen to make such a serious accusation, which has distressed many of the dedicated Kiwis who worked with animals on the films – including trainers, wranglers, care-givers, farm workers and animal health care professionals – without properly vetting the source from which they received this information.
I hope that this turns out not to be true. Jackson goes on to provide multiple supports for his claim that no animals were harmed. That is not to say that he would have been fully aware of every single event during his movie's production, but it remains to be seen what will come of this.
I doubt that these accusations will have any effect on the release of THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY. The death or mistreatment of any animal is a shame, but the average movie-goer will probably never hear of this unless it turns out to actually have caused the death of these horses.