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article imageAs Hobbit-mania sweeps New Zealand, PETA protests animal cruelty

By Anne Sewell     Nov 28, 2012 in Entertainment
Wellington - Today's the day - the much-anticipated film, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" premiered in New Zealand on Wednesday. While many are very excited, PETA is extremely upset.
Digital Journal recently reported that wranglers for the animal stars in the Hobbit movie had reported the deaths of at least 27 animals during the making of the film. While none were harmed in the actual filming, apparently the animals were kept on an unsafe farm where several accidents occurred.
As the highly-anticipated film premiered on Wednesday in Wellington (or should we say "the Middle of Middle-earth" as Wellington has recently dubbed itself), the animal rights organization, PETA, was out there protesting.
PETA's full statement on the issue reads as follows:
The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Five whistleblowers reported more than two dozen animal deaths during the production of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. They raised concerns not just once but repeatedly to both the head wrangler and the head of production about the unsafe housing conditions for animals and about Shanghai the horse, who was hobbled (his legs reportedly tied together when he proved to be "too energetic" for his rider). But their concerns were outright ignored. With the exception of the hobbled horse, all claims of animal injury and death are directly related to how the animals were housed and fed. Jackson attempts to deflect these serious charges by talking about the use of animals during action sequences—even though these damning incidents did not take place when cameras were rolling. Two horses went over steep embankments and died (one was found with her head submerged in water), a horse sustained a severe injury after being put in with other horses despite known problems, sheep broke their legs in sinkholes, and chickens were mauled by dogs—all instances of extreme negligence. It seems to PETA that instead of vainly defending himself, Jackson should be giving a firm assurance that this will never happen again. He is the CGI master and has the ability to make the animals and other interesting creatures in his movies 100 percent CGI, and PETA calls on him again to do so.
However, the film's director, Peter Jackson, has responded to PETA's claim, denying the accusations of negligence towards the animals, and saying, "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 Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
He called their protest an attempt to get publicity, and said their protesting at the film's premiere in Wellington was "pretty pathetic."
According to the American Humane Association (AHA), none of the horses, goats, sheep and chickens died during the actual filming. They state that the deaths were due to negligence over the conditions for housing the animals.
PETA lists the animals which allegedly died, as reported by five whistleblowers (all wranglers who worked on the film set), as follows:
Two geldings ran a pony named Rainbow off an embankment in the paddock that they were all housed in. The next morning, Rainbow was found still alive and suffering, with his neck and back broken, and had to be euthanized.
A horse named Doofus was housed with two geldings even though they had already injured the pony. He was subsequently found tangled in the fence, the skin and muscles torn from his leg, surrounded by hoofprints that indicated a fight.
A horse named Clare was run over a bank by other horses in her paddock, most likely because there was not sufficient space or grass for them all. She was found with her neck broken and her head submerged in the river.
A horse named Zeppelin died suddenly after displaying symptoms of colic, which can result from feeding grain to a horse who isn't accustomed to it. Zeppelin's typical diet was grass and hay, but he was fed grain on the set.
A horse named Shanghai was hobbled (his legs were tied together so that he couldn't move) and left lying on the ground for more than three hours. The resulting rope burns were covered up for filming. Hobbling is a violation of the guidelines of the American Humane Association (AHA), the agency that monitors the treatment of animals on film and television productions.
A horse named Molly became tangled in wire fencing in her paddock, tearing the skin and muscle from her leg.
Numerous goats and sheep died from worm infestations and from falling into sinkholes.
Twelve chickens were killed by dogs who weren't properly supervised.
The film is the first in a planned $500 million trilogy, and is a prequel to the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Director Peter Jackson said it was "emotional and very humbling" to see such a crowd turn out, as up to 100,000 people were said to have gathered in Wellington for the premiere.
The second film in the new trilogy is due for release in December 2013 and the third in July 2014.
Meanwhile, PETA is running a petition to hopefully prevent further cruelty to animal stars.
More about The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey, The hobbit, New Zealand, Premiere, Wellington
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