The death of a horse on the set of Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has prompted animal rights organization PETA to call for all TV and movie productions to stop “exploiting animals for their art.”
The death occurred on March 21 as the production team was getting ready to shoot a scene for Season 2 of the Lord of the Rings TV show.
“We are deeply saddened to confirm that a production horse died,” an Amazon Studios spokesperson said. “The incident took place in the morning whilst the horse was being exercised prior to rehearsals.”
The spokesperson added that an “independent necropsy” found that the horse died of cardiac failure.
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“The trainer was not in costume and filming had yet to commence,” the statement added. “Both a veterinarian and a representative of the American Humane Association were present at the time.”
The horse was standing with about 20 other horses when it went into cardiac arrest, according to The Hollywood Reporter. It had no known prior health conditions.
The horse was provided by The Devil’s Horsemen, a trained-animal outfitter for TV and film. The company famously supplied horses for Game of Thrones and this is apparently the first on-set animal fatality the company has recorded in its 50-year history.
PETA condemned the producers of The Rings of Power for using real horses on its set, exposing them to danger, instead of replacing them with computer graphics (CG).
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“It seems that living underground with the orcs is par for the course for the producers of The Rings of Power because they have the option to use CGI, mechanical rigs and other humane methods that wouldn’t run vulnerable horses to death on set,” said PETA senior vice president of communications, Lisa Lange.
“PETA is calling on the show’s creators — and all other producers — to take on a new quest without using any real horses. If they can’t avoid exploiting animals for their art, they should find a new medium, because no one wants to see a spinoff for TV with torment as the theme.”
This is not the first time a project in the Lord of the Rings franchise has come under fire from PETA and animal rights activists.
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In 2012, director Peter Jackson was the subject of scrutiny when three horses, as well as other farm animals, allegedly died on the set of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first prequel movie to the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, which Jackson also directed.
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At the time, PETA responded to the allegations by launching a petition to urge moviegoers to boycott films where animals had been harmed, the Guardian reported.
Jackson denied claims that animals had been mistreated on his set, calling the allegations “unsubstantiated.”
The Rings of Power is a spinoff TV show set in Middle-earth’s second age, thousands of years before the events in The Lord of the Rings. The show’s first season was billed as the most expensive TV production in history and was streamed for more than 24 billion minutes, making it Amazon’s most-watched original show to date.
Season 2 is expected to land in 2024.
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