AHA says film horse care OK

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By MATTHEW DAL­LAS

Safety im­prove­ments at a Pau­ata­hanui farm were rec­om­mended and en­acted fol­low­ing the death of horses used in The Hob­bit film pro­duc­tion, the Amer­i­can Hu­mane As­so­ci­a­tion an­nounced on Fri­day.

Its Film and TV Unit com­mu­ni­ca­tions spokesper­son, Jone Bouman, said the as­so­ci­a­tion in­ves­ti­gated an al­le­ga­tion of an­i­mal deaths by a for­mer con­trac­tor last year and rec­om­mended safety im­prove­ments to an­i­mal liv­ing ar­eas.

In a me­dia state­ment, Ms Bouman said the pro­duc­tion com­pany, 3Foot7, was re­spon­sive to the rec­om­men­da­tions, ‘‘ up­grad­ing fences, im­prov­ing farm hous­ing, and ed­u­cat­ing farmhands to en­cour­age them to use the same high stan­dard of care on the farm as on the set’’.

Last week Kapi-Mana News re­ported on a protest by for­mer The Hob­bit wran­gler John Smythe, who claimed three horses died need­lessly at the Gray’s Rd farm due to poor man­age­ment de­ci­sions.

Mr Smythe said he did not make the com­plaint to the AHA last year, be­liev­ing it was made by an­other wran­gler who had left the pro­duc­tion. He said he only re­cently con­tacted the AHA.

Ms Bouman con­firmed re­ceiv­ing an email from Mr Smythe but in­di­cated to Kapi-Mana News there would be no ad­di­tional in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his com­plaints.

‘‘The farm where some of the an­i­mals were kept was not un­der our ju­ris­dic­tion and our on-set vet­eri­nar­ian/safety rep­re­sen­ta­tive was only made aware of any al­leged prob­lems at the farm long af­ter the fact, so we have no first-hand knowl­edge or di­rect ev­i­dence con­firm­ing any of the al­le­ga­tions.’’

Mr Smythe said he had con­tacted the SPCA last year but was told he needed ‘‘hard proof’’, such as pho­tos, which he did not have.

Mr Smythe’s claims have been rub­bished by the farm man­ager, Ross Berry, who has ap­plauded the film crew’s treat­ment of an­i­mals at the prop­erty.

Mr Berry said he ob­served the wran­glers al­most daily and their treat­ment of an­i­mals was won­der­ful.

He said horses used in The Hob­bit had died at the farm, ‘‘but these were not deaths due to mis­treat­ment or bad man­age­ment’’. He con­sid­ered Mr Smythe a trou­ble­maker with an axe to grind.

Mr Smythe was fired from the pro­duc­tion last year, claim­ing he lost his job af­ter speak­ing out about the horse deaths. He be­lieved it was in Mr Berry’s best in­ter­est fi­nan­cially to de­fend the film crew.

3Foot7 has not com­mented on the claims be­yond a state­ment ex­press­ing con­fi­dence in its an­i­mal team and the great care the com­pany had taken to fol­low AHA guide­lines.

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