Animal Rights Activists Target 'Hobbit,' 'Life of Pi'

Animal Rights Activists Target 'Hobbit,' 'Life of Pi'

Two of the Oscar season’s biggest films are coming under attack for alleged cruelty to animals on the set.

Both “Life of Pi” and “The Hobbit” figure to enter the awards season equation over the coming weeks, but animal rights activists are none too pleased with the productions regardless of the film’s overall quality. In the case of “The Hobbit,” based on J.R.R.’s beloved text, animal rights experts say conditions beyond the set are proving deadly to the creatures used in the film.

Animal wranglers involved in the making of “The Hobbit” movie trilogy say the production company is responsible for the deaths of up to 27 animals, largely because they were kept at a farm filled with bluffs, sinkholes and other “death traps.”

The American Humane Association, which is overseeing animal welfare on the films, says no animals were harmed during the actual filming. But it also says the wranglers’ complaints highlight shortcomings in its oversight system, which monitors film sets but not the facilities where the animals are housed and trained.

“Hobbit” director Peter Jackson denies the charges against his production, saying many of the deaths were from natural causes.

Director Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi,” which tells the fantastic story of a young man trapped on a life boat with a Bengal tiger, is drawing fire from Animal Defenders International. The group goes one step further on the animal rights front. It doesn’t believe “performing animals” should be used in film productions at all. Today’s sophisticated effects can whip up any animal a director may choose, the group argues.

“The use of performing animals in the making of ‘Life of Pi’ simply beggars belief, given the CGI technology in use throughout the movie.” says ADI President Jan Creamer.

ADI says performing animals “are deprived of all the social and mental stimulation that they would enjoy in the wild,” according to a press release connected to “Pi.”‘ and adds films should embrace a “no wild animals’ policy for future shoots.