And you thought that the words “No animals were harmed during the making of this movie” actually meant something.
It depends on what you mean by the word “making.” The American Humane Association (AHA) does monitor what happens on the set itself, where the cameras are rolling and the actors are doing their thing. But it turns a blind eye to everything that happens offthe set.
And so, in the real making of the new mega-epic The Hobbit, premiering in December, it took the animal wranglers, not the AHA, to blow the whistle and let us all know that 27 animals had died. That’s one of the worst records ever. (The worst was probably the silent-screen Ben-Hurof 1925, when 100 horses were killed in the infamous chariot race.)
The wranglers say that the animals used in The Hobbitwere kept at a farm filled with bluffs, sinkholes and other “death traps.” They said they repeatedly told this to their superiors and the production company, owned by Warner Bros., but that their concerns were ignored.
One of the wranglers, Chris Langridge, said he personally buried three horses, six goats, six sheep and a dozen chickens, and that two more horses were badly injured but survived.
Langridge says that the first horse to die was a miniature named Rainbow. “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. He was in a bad state.” Rainbow was euthanized.
After more animals died, Langridge and his wife quit. They wrote to their manager, and never got a reply.
What does the movie’s director, Peter Jackson, say?
The producers completely reject the accusations that twenty seven animals died due to mistreatment during the making of the films … We regret that some of these accusations by wranglers who were dismissed from the film over a year ago are only now being brought to our attention. We are currently investigating these new allegations and are attempting to speak with all parties involved to establish the truth.
Jackson also says he adopted three of the pigs who were used in the movie.
And what does the AHA say?
Spokesman Mark Stubis told reporters that the organization visited the farm in August, 2011. “We made safety recommendations to the animals’ living areas.” These included upgrading the fences and housing areas. And in a statement to the press, CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert said:
“We are currently only empowered to monitor animal actors while they are working on production sets. 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. There are too many incidents off the set and this must stop. It is vital that we work with the industry to bring the kind of protection we have for animals during filming to all phases of production.”
Does Dr. Ganzert mean the AHA didn’t know this horror was going on? That they were surprised when the wranglers finally went to the media? That they’d never heard of anything similar in other movies that they “monitor”? “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.”
How about what happened last year in the making of the movie Water for Elephants– more aptly named “Torture for Elephants.
There was outrage when Animal Defenders International(ADI) revealed what the AHA had completely ignored because it didn’t actually happen on the set itself but rather in the training sessions prior to actual filming.
The undercover video from ADI is stomach-churning. It includes a clearly sadistic woman holding a baby elephant by her trunk and whacking her over the head with a heavy bullhook. And an elephant being hooked inside her ear and being dragged around with this sharp hook and beaten repeatedly on her legs, her head, her ears and her trunk. And an electric shock device that delivers a million volts to an elephant underside when she doesn’t stand up on her back legs and wave her front feet in the air as required.
Sure, it didn’t happen on the set – in the actual “making” of this dreadful movie. It was all done in the off-set “training”. And the AHA knew nothing about this?
But maybe all of this is not that hard to believe. After all, this is the same AHA whose same CEO Danzert held a fundraising dinnerthat served scallops, chicken breasts and beef Wellington to the high-paying guests, and even showed the chefs in the kitchen on a TV show, preparing the animals for the dinner.
For its part, following an internal investigation, the AHA is now saying there’s an inherent weakness in the monitoring system.
No sh*t, Sherlock!