'The Hobbit' Was Accused Of Animal Cruelty - But Was The Production Really At Fault?

The Hobbit trilogy caused a great deal of controversy. Many fans felt the filmmakers stretched the story out over three films to cash in on the popularity of the Lord of the Rings series. Others disliked the excess CGI and deviation from the original plot. However, one aspect without much attention was the alleged animal mistreatment on set.

Hollywood doesn’t exactly have a good reputation when it comes to the treatment of animals. Peter Jackson’s epic didn’t do much to restore it, either. Before the release of the first film in the series, multiple reports of animal abuse emerged from the set of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. People who worked on the movies claimed several animals died as a result of harmful practices and poor living conditions, leading PETA to protest at the premiere.

  • 27 Animals Involved In The Production Apparently Died

    According to a report from the Associated Press, animal wranglers claim up to 27 animals, which one wrangler said included "three horses, as well as about six goats, six sheep, and a dozen chickens," involved in the production of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey died. None of the animals, however, died while on set. Instead, the wranglers assert the farm that provided housing for the animals was unsafe, and this likely caused many of the animals to perish.

  • Peter Jackson Blamed The Deaths On Animal Wranglers

    Despite the reports from media outlets claiming the animals died due to mistreatment, director Peter Jackson and producers working on the movie strongly denied responsibility for any deaths. Instead, they placed the blame squarely on the wranglers tasked with looking after the animals between filming. Production executives also said they fired two of the wranglers who submitted complaints because of improper care for the animals.

  • Jackson Also Said Natural Causes Were To Blame For Some Animal Deaths

    Jackson detailed the number of animal deaths due to natural causes rather than by unacceptable treatment. He explained the crew treated the on-set animals well, and provided written evidence from the animals' owners, veterinary experts, and actors to confirm none died as a direct result of filming. In a statement received by The Hollywood Reporter, Jackson said:

    The American Humane Association (AHA) was on hand to monitor all use of animals by the production. No animals died or were harmed on set during filming.

  • Wranglers Claimed A Farm Providing Housing For Animals Was Unsafe

    A large farm shouldered most of the blame for the animal deaths. When shooting was not taking place, the animals lived at the farm. The wranglers who first brought attention to the issue claimed the farm was full of “death traps” making life incredibly dangerous for the animals who lived there. Rather than flatland ideal for large animals, this was uneven ground. It also allegedly had cliff edges, as well as banks and sinkholes capable of easily injuring approaching creatures.

  • The Uneven Terrain Proved Fatal For Two Horses

    Within the space of just a few weeks, several horses sustained serious injuries, two of which led directly to the death of the animals. Chris Langridge, an animal wrangler for the production, claimed a pony broke its back after stumbling off a steep bank. Another wrangler, Johnny Smythe, alleged a horse drowned after falling from a cliff edge into a stream.

  • Other Animals Died From Digestive Issues And Other Problems

    Wranglers complained about the new feed given to sheep and goats after the grass became worn out. According to the wranglers, the new feed led to several of the animals suffering from digestive problems. They also said there were cases of dogs mauling chickens and other small creatures due to inadequate fencing to protect them. The four animal wranglers argued these issues, along with the layout of the farm, made it unsafe for the animals housed there.