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As a fan of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I am quite excited to see Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” in the hope that it lives up to its predecessors. However, there is news circulating the internet regarding this blockbuster movie that I cannot ignore or overlook – and neither should you.
Neglect and mismanagement reportedly led to the deaths of 27 animals while under the supervision of “The Hobbit” crew. The reasons for these deaths range from broken backs, attacks by dogs, entanglement in barbed wire, and falls from great heights such as bluffs, found on the property where the animals were kept. The first and most noteworthy of the animals injured were numerous horses, including a miniature pony named Rainbow.
As it turns out, the film industry has a fairly large history of animal neglect and cruelty, making the incidents that occurred off-screen during “The Hobbit” seem almost tame. One example of abuse can be found in the making of the 1939 movie “Stagecoach.” In order to obtain sensational action shots where chase scenes resulted in wild pandemonium and falling horses, the since-banned Running W tripwire was used. This tripwire became infamous for creating those great, on-screen effects film makers crave, but it came at the cost of crippling or killing a horse. Petrine Day Mitchum, author of Hollywood Hoofbeats: Trails Blazed Across The Silver Screen, writes, “wires attached to the horse’s forelegs were threaded through a ring on the cinch and secured to buried dead weights… when the horse ran to the end of the wires, his forelegs were yanked out from under him.”
The popular family movie, “Flicka,” had run-ins with horse-related accidents, as well. Two horses died in the making of the film and the American Humane Associations “no animals were harmed” statement was left out of the final version after investigations were inconclusive.
Despite the countless regulations doled out by the American Humane Association and similar organizations, animals are still being mistreated – even dying – for our viewing pleasure. Though the lives lost were unintentional, the fact that this still happens is disheartening and reminds the reader that, for some, the making of “The Hobbit” was the opposite of pleasurable, exciting, or anticipated. In fact, certain staff members quit during the making of the film after witnessing this aforementioned neglect.
Don’t get me wrong, I remain excited about the movie and am not trying to dissuade people from seeing it. However, these incidents did occur, and it would be willfully ignorant to say nothing. As history has shown, animals have, are, and will most likely continue to be harmed in the name of entertainment. Though conditions have improved from the days of “Stagecoach,” they are not perfect. The solution will not be found in boycotting “The Hobbit,” like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has done. Only by being cognizant of these issues and willing to discuss them can we can move toward the day when humane treatment of animals in movies is not just attempted, but guaranteed.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Katrina Winograd at Katrina.firstname.lastname@example.org