Over on Variety, they have a piece talking about the American Humane Association asking that more money be applied for the jurisdiction if improved animal safety when it comes to the use of animal actors in the entertainment industry.
(Please note that The American Humane Association (AHA) is not affiliated with the Humane Society of the United States. Different groups altogether.)
This after various reports of 27 deaths of animals on the farm that was used for filming of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
The production staff say there no animals were harmed during the filming of The Hobbit, plus thousands of dollars were used to improve the farm prior to filming, located near Wellington, New Zealand.
Yet contradictory reports from animal wranglers are saying that the farm still contained bluffs, sinkholes and the like. These conditions reportedly caused grave injuries to three horses. Six goats & six sheep were reported to have died from various conditions involving fall injuries and having contracted worms from an abrupt change in their diet. Additionally, chickens were lost to wild pack dogs because they were left outside of their enclosures.
Despite concerns raised about the location, production was still done at the location.
Now it’s also being said that the Humane Assn actually responded to various issues being reported about the farm, and those issues were addressed and the farm brought up to those specs.
I can’t speak to the deaths and treatment of the animals, but if these situations are true, I can’t say I’m surprised.
I’m not saying things were done intentionally or there was any subterfuge involved with the processes of the production of The Hobbit. Having been privy to over a dozen productions over the years, I can say that when a movie production comes to “town,” they leave carnage in their wake.
The carnage, from what I can tell, is just from a perspective of attitude I’ve noticed of a “bull in a china shop.” This stems from needing to get the job done, pronto. But this leaves debris in their wake.
In a few cases, I’ve watched parking lots turned into a mish-mash of cars as production staff show up and almost all to a tee, park across several spaces with each of their cars. Then grumble about the lack of parking.
I’ve seen on a few occasions where friends lease out their houses for filming, and the crews leave a plundered house in their wake. (Owners are obviously compensated, but the industry doesn’t believe in leaving things as they found it.)
I’ve seen attitudes range from wanting to care, to being too busy to care, to acting entitled because they feel pretty damn special about the job they’re doing.
I’m not saying this is indicative of the entire industry, but I don’t think these kinds of issues can be avoided when you have large groups of people trying to get something done. And that infrastructure of the crew is such that it seems so many people have people who have people to do things for them that this structure of responsibility tends to have a unique side effect and what ever intent there may be, filters or pans out.
The production team behind The Hobbit deny all of the claims noted, in as much as mistreatment during filming, but have acknowledged the deaths of the animals.
It’s a shame when animals get injured or killed at the behest of humans. They’re at our whim and it’s our responsibility to look out for them properly. Not to have them treated in such a way that simple things like harsh diet changes can occur. (If they did.)
Any way, that’s my sensitized take on the matter. I’m not pointing fingers, but when things like this, or the hazards of what happened to the horses on HBO’s Luck and the like, well, to me, there seems to be an apparent trend. A small trend, but one none-the-less.
I don’t like that trend.
For a moment I touch on the Humane Society of the United States, and would like to point out that
[The HSUS is rated a 4-star charity (the highest possible) by Charity Navigator, approved by the Better Business Bureau for all 20 standards for charity accountability, voted by Guidestar’s Philanthropedia experts as the #1 high-impact animal protection group, and named by Worth Magazine as one of the 10 most fiscally responsible charities.]