27 animals died during filming of Hollywood blockbuster The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, says report

Agency tasked with monitoring safety ‘covered up injuries and deaths on movie sets'

Los Angeles

It’s the comforting, post-credits pledge that lets animal lovers enjoy their favourite movies without worrying that anyone really killed Kevin Costner’s horse or Tom Hanks’s dog.

But now it seems the slogan “no animals were harmed” is not always to be believed after the publication of a report claiming animal cruelty is still rife in Hollywood.

A number of animals were injured or killed during the production of some of last year’s biggest blockbusters, including Life of Pi and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, while the HBO horse-racing drama Luck was cancelled after four horses died during filming.

The report by The Hollywood Reporter accuses the American Humane Association (AHA) – the issuer of the familiar “no animals were harmed” credit – of not only failing to protect animals on set, but also of covering up those lapses. The real-life Bengal tiger that played the circus animal “Richard Parker” in the director Ang Lee’s acclaimed Life of Pi was reported to have almost “drowned” during a sequence that was shot in a water tank in Taiwan; the report claims the animal was snagged with a catch rope and dragged to the side of the tank.

The Oscar-winning film was awarded the “no animals were harmed” stamp, despite an AHA official having witnessed the incident.

Gina Johnson, a representative for the AHA, described the tiger’s mistreatment in an email to a colleague in 2011.

“This one take with him just went really bad and he got lost trying to swim to the side. Damn near drowned,” she wrote. “I think this goes without saying but don’t mention anything to anyone! Especially the office. Have downplayed the fuck out  of it.”

The report also claims the AHA neglected to investigate animal cruelty that took place on a New Zealand farm during the filming of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 2011, when 27 animals – including sheep and goats – reportedly perished from dehydration, exhaustion or drowning.

An animal trainer working on the film informed an AHA official of the fatalities in 2012, but was told the lack of physical evidence would make it hard to investigate the claim further. When the trainer replied that he had buried the animals himself and knew of their location, the AHA representative told him that because the deaths had taken place off-set, it could not officiate.

The film was later given the carefully worded credit that noted it “monitored all of the significant animal action. No animals were harmed during such action”.

These recent incidents of animal neglect are not isolated. According to the report, a husky dog was punched in the diaphragm on Disney’s 2006 film Eight Below, a chipmunk was fatally squashed in the 2006 comedy Failure to Launch, starring Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker, and dozens of dead fish and squid were washed ashore during the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean in 2003.

In a statement, the AHA denied the allegations made in the report and said it could only bear responsibility for an animal’s welfare while it was on a film set.

“Far from allowing abuse or neglect to occur, we have a remarkably high safety record of 99.98 per cent on set,” the AHA said.

“Despite our best efforts, there have occasionally been rare accidents, most of them minor and not intentional.”

Writing to condemn the animal deaths during production on The Hobbit last year, Dr Robin Ganzert, the chief executive of the AHA, said: “We do not have either the jurisdiction or funding to extend 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.”

Animal Cruelty: Film’s recent record

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Twenty seven animals including goats and sheep were said to have perished from dehydration, exhaustion or drowning on a New Zealand farm during filming.

Zookeeper (2011)

An elderly giraffe died during the movie’s production run.

Eight Below Zero (2006)

A huskie was beaten during filming, and given five punches to its diaphragm. Force was also used to break up a dog fight.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
science
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links