Did The Hobbit Kill 27 Animals? PETA Vs. Peter Jackson

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Martin Freeman and director Peter Jackson on the set of The Hobbit

We’re just starting to get excited for the epic epicness that will be Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit movies, but the latest news about the production may just put a damper on our Middle-earth love. Yesterday, PETA released info to The Associated Press alleging that 27 horses, sheep, goats and chickens had died during the production due to dangerous conditions at the farm where they were housed. PETA’s sources described hazardous bluffs and embankments that killed two horses, overcrowded stables, worm infestations that killed sheep and goats, and the mauling of chickens by out-of-control dogs on the property.

Jackson and company immediately defended themselves, saying that PETA didn’t check their sources. “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,” Jackson wrote on Facebook late last night.

Spokespeople for the production told the AP that there were two avoidable deaths of horses but other animals died of “natural causes.” Meanwhile, the American Humane Association — the folks that authorize the “no animals were harmed” statement in the credits of movies — claim that while it made sure none were harmed on the set, it had no control over what went on at the farm, which was 186 miles away. “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,” said a statement, according to Deadline. So that’s not exactly a statement of support for The Hobbit.

PETA, which demonstrated its power in Hollywood recently when protests over horse deaths led to the cancellation of HBO’s Luck, made a suggestion we find rather unrealistic. “In a movie that features CGI dragons, ogres, and hobbits, CGI animals would have fit in perfectly. Jackson could have made The Hobbit without using a single animal—and he should have.” The producers already said they used CGI for 55 percent of the animals in the movies, but we imagine using zero real animals, especially for close-ups, would look absurd. (Sorry, Twilight werewolves, you are no substitute for the real thing.)

We really hope this is just a story of disgruntled workers making use of PETA’s strong conviction that no animals should ever work for people in any setting, and not an actual tale of mistreatment. We don’t think Bilbo would approve.

[Photo: Warner Bros.]