The Hobbit & Animal Abuse

There’s something missing from the argument about alleged animal abuse during the filming of The Hobbit, says Gary Steel.

SO, A DISGRUNTLED former animal “wrangler” on the set of The Hobbit has got what he wanted: international coverage.
Even American animal rights group PETA has decided that his claims of animal abuse during the filming of the movie are true, and they’re encouraging concerned groups and citizens to demonstrate at screenings of the film when it opens next month.
Meanwhile, people who worked with this animal “wrangler” reckon that he was the problem – that he kicked a pig in the head, twice, and has a fractious personality that made him disliked on the set.
I’m not in a position to judge that former employee’s claims, because I wasn’t there, and I haven’t got access to clear evidence either way.
The SPCA reckons it has investigated, and that the allegations are unfounded. Yes, there were some issues around animal welfare on the farm where the animals used on the film were held, and some even died, but those concerns were addressed. So it says.
I reckon both PETA and the SPCA – both theoretically animal welfare organisations – are talking to their perceived audience and reacting to an invisible mandate that, in both cases, prevents them from behaving sensibly and addressing the real issues.
PETA has got a vested interest in appeasing the lunatic fringe, which means that it will make its mind up that there has been animal abuse, and encourage people to protest at screenings of the movie, without even having clear evidence to back up its claims.
The SPCA, on the other hand, has a vested interest to mainstream its response. That is, while it cares a lot about pets, its response to farm animals – animals that are routinely treated by farmers with about as much care and respect as common gorse – is less inspiring.
But then again, the attitude of the SPCA simply reflects typical Kiwi (that is, human) attitudes to animals, and the fact that we torture, maim and kill millions of farm animals every year just for our gastronomic gratification really says it all.
That’s what I find so ludicrous about press coverage of this issue. When farm animals are routinely treated so poorly, why would anyone care if a few had lost their lives or had their heads kicked on the set of The Hobbit? People are strange.
What’s missing here is the bigger issue: should animals be used in movies at all? In 2012, what is the justification for animal “wranglers”, and for exploiting animals for our entertainment while we slurp at over-priced ice-creams and crunch on “chemcorn”? Isn’t that was sophisticated CG is for? With all the technical resources available to the graphic software boffins at WETA, is there any excuse at all for using real animals in fantasy movies?
Regardless of how this mess pans out (and we’ll probably never get a clear resolution to this nasty stoush), I reckon Peter Jackson made a regrettable decision in using animals at all in The Hobbit. But then again, it’s pretty obvious from his fluctuating weight issues that the guy isn’t of the vegetarian persuasion. There’s some great weight and diet advice on Doctor Feelgood, Mr Jackson. You could lose that fat forever and show your compassion for animals by going vegetarian. I’m sure your mate James Cameron – who is a vegan, and lives just down the road – would be happy to give you all the advice you need. GARY STEEL

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