Wranglers Say 'Hobbit' Animals Suffered Gruesome Deaths On 'Death Trap'-Ridden Farm

Let us weep for Rainbow the miniature Hobbit pony, whom animal wranglers on Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy say was the first of 27 animals to die while being housed on a production farm filled with "death traps."

“When I arrived at work in the morning, the pony was still alive but his back was broken. He’d come off a bank at speed and crash-landed,” wrangler Chris Langridge told the AP. “He was in a bad state.”

Langridge and fellow former and current Hobbit animal wranglers aim to blow the lid off of what they allege were unsafe housing conditions for their animal charges, up to 150 of which were kept at the same Wellington, NZ farm during Hobbit filming.

The American Humane Association monitored animal safety on set and investigated the farm following the first few animal deaths, making safety recommendations that were subsequently employed by the production company. Still, it's hard to ignore the gruesome details of how some of the Hobbit horses, goats, and chickens died. Pour out some mead for these poor creatures, who are grazing for eternity in the Middle Earth in the sky:

- Rainbow the miniature, euthanized after suffering a broken back

- Claire the horse, who was found with her "head submerged in a stream after it fell over a bluff."

- Zeppelin the horse, whose records say died from natural causes, but: "Smythe said the horse was bloated and its intestines were full of a yellow liquid; he believes it died of digestive problems caused by new feed."

- Six goats and six sheep who perished "after falling into sinkholes, contracting worms or getting new feed after the grass was eaten."

- Twelve chickens who were mauled to death by dogs.

- Doofus the horse and Molly the horse, who actually survived after cutting themselves on fencing.

Jackson's camp, meanwhile, is downplaying the death toll. "We do know those deaths were avoidable and we took steps to make sure it didn’t happen again," said Jackson's rep. PETA is planning protests at the Hobbit premieres in New Zealand later this month and in the U.S. and the U.K. prior to the December release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

[AP via EW]


  • Anonymous says:

    The person who is most at fault in this is not Peter Jackson. It is the Animal Coordinator Steve Old.
    He was responsible for leasing that farm which was a hilly sheep farm unsuitable for horses. Several other suitable properties were put forward by the horse trainer that would have cost the same amount.
    He was also responsible for hiring staff that were not qualified to look after horses and vetoed every attempt of the horse trainer to hire suitable staff. He also prevented the horse trainer from making sensible training decisions. He insisted on letting his girlfriend train horses even though she was not qualified to even be riding them and caused many problems with their training when she did ride them. He also insisted on other unqualified people being allowed to ride horses.
    Steve Old also did not put any safe and appropriate training facilities in place. This was because he wanted to ensure he got the job by coming in under the budget outlined by another more qualified Animal Coordinator. He prevented the horse trainer from putting any facilities in place other than those that the horse trainer paid for out of his own pocket.
    Steve Old turned a blind eye to wilful abuse of animals - one case in which his own father was the abuser of a pig. This same person - Les Old - also sexually harassed a female staff member. When she told Steve that Les had groped her Steve fired her.
    Steve used production money and resources on his own private projects such as The Great NZ Trek. He pulled staff members away from caring for the animals on the film and sent them to do work on projects elsewhere during which time they were paid with film money.
    He bullied staff members into keeping quiet about any negative aspects of their work and told them they would be fired if they didn't fall into line.

  • BabyVetTech says:

    Was there ever any follow up to this story?

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