Welcome to a magical land full of promise, "bluffs, sinkholes and other 'death traps.'" Whether you know it as Middle Earth or New Zealand, it is a very dangerous place to be if you are a four-legged friend.
Four separate wranglers are slamming the production company behind The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, saying a farm used to house the animals during filming was too dangerous: resulting in 27 deaths. A spokesman for the film's director Peter Jackson confirmed the animals' deaths to The Daily Mail, adding that some animals died from natural causes. Others certainly did not:
- Rainbow, a miniature horse, was euthanized when he broke his back after falling off a bank.
- Claire, a full-sized real horse, died after falling over a bluff.
- Another horse, Zeppelin's, death records say it died of natural causes. But Johnny Smythe, a wrangler on the set and amateur animal-death-conspiracy-theorist, believes a new feed caused digestive issues which killed the horse.
In addition, six goats and six sheep died after falling into sinkholes or developing worms on the farm. Twelve chickens were mauled to death by roaming packs of dogs after they were left out of their enclosure.
Another horse, the aptly-named Doofus, nearly died when it got its leg cut in a fence, which really seems like it's more the horse's fault than anything else.
The American Humane Association keeps track of the welfare of animals used in films, though it only monitors film sets, and not the "death trap"-filled farms on which they live. An AHA spokesman told The Daily Mail the incidents highlighted an error in the organization's oversight process. A statement which is unlikely to comfort Rainbow's grieving widow just trying to make it by as a single mother of three foals, re-entering the workforce as a single miniature horse of a certain age.
PETA, always looking to make anything about itself, plans to stage protests at the movie's premieres in New Zealand, the U.S. and the UK.