Hobbit movie animals died, actors abused

This video is called THE HOBBIT Trailer – 2012 Movie – Official [HD].

From Associated Press:

27 animals ‘died while making Hobbit‘, claim animal handlers


November 19, 2012 6:17PM

ANIMAL handlers 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 handlers’ complaints highlight shortcomings in its oversight system, which monitors film sets, but not the facilities where the animals are housed and trained.

A spokesman for trilogy director Peter Jackson acknowledged that horses, goats, chickens and one sheep died at the farm near Wellington where about 150 animals were housed for the movies, but he said some of the deaths were from natural causes.

The spokesman, Matt Dravitzki, agreed that the deaths of two horses were avoidable, and said the production company moved quickly to improve conditions after they died.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first movie in the planned $500 million trilogy, is scheduled to launch with a red-carpet premiere on November 28 in Wellington and will open at theaters in the US and around the world in December.

The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says it’s planning protests at the premieres in New Zealand, the US and the UK.

The Associated Press spoke to four handlers who said the farm near Wellington was unsuitable for horses because it was peppered with bluffs, sinkholes and broken-down fencing. They said they repeatedly raised concerns about the farm with their superiors and the production company, owned by Warner Bros., but it continued to be used. They say they want their story aired publicly now to prevent similar deaths in the future.

One said that over time he buried three horses, as well as about six goats, six sheep and a dozen chickens. Others say two more horses suffered severe injuries but survived.

Handler Chris Langridge said he was hired as a horse trainer in November 2010, overseeing 50 or so horses, but immediately became concerned that the farm was full of “death traps.” He said he tried to fill in some of the sinkholes, made by underground streams, and even brought in his own fences to keep the horses away from the most dangerous areas. Ultimately, he said, it was an impossible task.

He said horses run at speeds of up to 50km/h and need to be housed on flat land: “It’s just a no-brainer.”

The first horse to die, he said, was a miniature named Rainbow.

“When I arrived at work in the morning, the pony was still alive but his back was broken. He’d come off a bank at speed and crash-landed,” Langridge said. “He was in a bad state.”

Rainbow, who had been slated for use as a hobbit horse, was euthanized. A week later, a horse named Doofus got caught in some fencing and sliced open its leg. That horse survived, but Langridge said he’d had enough.

He and his wife, Lynn, who was also working with the animals, said they quit in February 2011. The following month, they wrote an email to Brigitte Yorke, the Hobbit trilogy’s unit production manager, outlining their concerns.

Chris Langridge said he responded to Yorke’s request for more information but never received a reply after that.

Handler Johnny Smythe said that soon after Langridge left, a horse named Claire was found dead, its head submerged in a stream after it fell over a bluff. After that, he said, the horses were put in stables, where a third horse died.

Smythe said no autopsy was performed on the horse, which was named Zeppelin. Veterinary records say the horse died of natural causes, from a burst blood vessel, but Smythe said the horse was bloated and its intestines were full of a yellow liquid; he believes it died of digestive problems caused by new feed.

Smythe said the six goats and six sheep he buried died after falling into sinkholes, contracting worms or getting new feed after the grass was eaten. He said the chickens were often left out of their enclosure and that a dozen were mauled to death by dogs on two separate occasions.

Smythe said he was fired in October 2011 after arguing with his boss about the treatment of the animals.

A fourth handler, who didn’t want to be named because she feared it could jeopardise her future employment in the industry, said another horse, Molly, got caught in a fence and ripped her leg open, suffering permanent injuries.

The American Humane Association said in its report on “An Unexpected Journey” that it investigated the farm at the production company’s request. Dravitzki said the company contacted the AHA after Smythe alleged mistreatment of animals.

Mark Stubis, an association spokesman, said it investigated the farm in August 2011, months after the first deaths.

“We made safety recommendations to the animals’ living areas. The production company followed our recommendations and upgraded fence and farm housing, among other things,” the group said.

Stubis said the association acknowledges that what happens off-set remains a blind spot in its oversight.

“We would love to be able to monitor the training of animals and the housing of animals,” Stubis said. “It’s something we are looking into. We want to make sure the animals are treated well all the time.”

Hollywood has made animal welfare a stated priority for years.

In March, HBO cancelled the horse racing series “Luck” after three thoroughbred horses died during production. The network said it canceled the show because it could not guarantee against future accidents.

Peta to picket The Hobbit premiere after whistleblower reveals ‘preventable’ deaths and ‘needless suffering’ of animals on set: here.

Peter Jackson and Warner Bros. deny on-set troubles as the Humane Society pushes for oversight into what happens when the cameras stop rolling: here.

From Stuff.co in New Zealand today:

Since the infamous actors’ dispute over terms and conditions on The Hobbit, some Kiwi actors have had to endure on-set conditions that include sharing coloured prop contact lenses, their union says.

Phil Darkins, of Actors’ Equity, told a conference in Wellington yesterday he had also heard of actors being verbally abused, denied shelter, and not being offered blankets or warm drinks after long shoots in the water.

Those who spoke out would not get further work, he said.

“To go public is essentially falling on your sword and saying your career is over.”

Two years ago, Actors’ Equity had already spent 18 months trying to talk to the Screen Production and Development Association about getting binding terms and conditions for New Zealand actors – a move that would bring New Zealand in line with the rest of the English-speaking world.

New Zealand had guidelines only – and still did – and these were sometimes ignored, he said.

The dispute in 2010, in which unions called for actors not to sign up with The Hobbit until the row was sorted out, led to studios New Line, Warner Bros Pictures and MGM Pictures, as well as Hobbit director Sir Peter Jackson, saying this could force the production overseas.

The Government cut a deal, changing employment law – essentially making film workers contractors rather than employees – and giving Warner an increased tax concession to secure the films.

But documents provided to The Dominion Post under the Official Information Act later that year showed Jackson had emailed Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee’s office saying: “There is no connection between the blacklist [and its eventual retraction], and the choice of production base for The Hobbit.”

Mr Darkins said yesterday the “Hobbit dispute” was never an attack on The Hobbit.

But when the International Federation of Actors agreed to ask its worldwide members not to sign on to The Hobbit until binding terms and conditions were enshrined in New Zealand, it gave clout to the small New Zealand union, which decided to take action.

The fact that actors around the world had been asked not to sign on meant the production could never have been taken overseas, he said.

Mr Darkins – speaking at a Victoria University conference on work matters – also said the days of big-budget international film shoots in New Zealand were numbered.

When the “fad” of the fantasy film genre ended, most of the work would be in post-production, he said.


The grandson of JRR Tolkien has revealed how the Lord of the Rings movies tore his family apart and provoked a feud with his father.

Simon Tolkien, 53, told Britain’s Daily Telegraph that the immense popularity of the film adaptations was akin to being “hit by a juggernaut”.

The former barrister, now himself a successful novelist, said he began to lose sight of his identity and became “suffocated” by being known as JRR Tolkien’s grandson.

The problems also sparked an “incredibly, dreadfully painful” feud with his father, Christopher, with the falling out becoming so bad that the pair did not speak for a while.

Christopher Tolkien, now 87, did not attend the premiere of the first Lord of the Rings movie, saying the Tolkien estate was better off avoiding any specific association with the trilogy.

Earlier this year, he told French newspaper Le Monde: “They gutted the book, making an action film for 15 to 25-year-olds.”

Simon Tolkien said the pair had since “sorted out all our differences”.

The arrival of a Tolkien blockbuster no longer filled him with trepidation and The Hobbit wouldn’t mean another “sideswipe from the juggernaut”.

Saddlebill storks in Kenya

This video from South Africa is called Saddlebill Stork @ Kruger Park.

From the Star in Kenya:

Kenya: Nairobi Park Diary – Stork Romance

By Gareth Jones, 17 November 2012

As I approached the stream crossing area, a flash of colour caught my eye. Next to a small bush were two magnificent saddlebill storks. They were undoubtedly on ‘honeymoon’ and the male was flapping his wings and really trying to show off to this ‘lady’ , but the female in typical fashion showed very little interest and kept turning away.

The male became increasingly frustrated and increased his efforts. Eventually, after about 30 minutes, the female accepted him. I could not help but think that some human romantic efforts have similar traits, but hopefully a little more sophisticated and subtle.

To actually see a saddlebill in the wild is always a thrill as they are large, impressive and colourful. In many parts of Africa, these storks are very rare, so to actually have them breeding in the Nairobi National Park is wonderful.

I know of some people that visit the park for the prime purpose of going on a ‘birding safari’. There are estimated to be over 550 species to see at various times of the year. Many are permanent residents while other bird species are migrants.

It is good to stop at a rest site or just switch off the car engine and listen to the incredible variety of bird songs that God has created. It is very calming and helps relieve stress. In my experience, while bird watching, animals such as lion, buffalo and rhino do at times get in the way.

The park is open daily from 06h00 to 19h00 . For more information on the park you can link to the following websites www.kws.org or www.nairobigreenline.org or on Facebook.

Washington-Karzai conflict on Afghan prisoners

This video says about itself:

An ever increasing number of U.S. troops are fighting for peace in Afghanistan. But an investigative journalist claims to have revealed the shocking truth about surprise night raids by American forces and secret prisons where detainees are routinely tortured.

From Associated Press:

US violating detainee pact, Afghan president Karzai says


Published: November 19, 2012

KABUL — Afghanistan’s president says U.S. forces are continuing to capture and hold Afghans in violation of an agreement signed between the two countries.

President Hamid Karzai says in a statement issued late Sunday that some detainees are still held by U.S. forces even though Afghan judges have ruled that they be released. He also decries the continued arrest of Afghans by U.S. forces.

Karzai’s office says these acts “are completely against the agreement that has been signed.” The two countries signed the detainee transfer pact in March but the handover has been slowed by the U.S. The Americans argue that Kabul is not ready to take over detainee management, and also insist the Afghan government agree to hold without trial some detainees that the U.S. deems too dangerous to release.