Animals rights activists have condemned the death of a horse on the set of Prime Video’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.”
On March 21, a horse suffered cardiac arrest ahead of rehearsals on the production of the fantasy streaming series. Amazon Studios released a statement confirming the situation on Sunday morning.
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“We are deeply saddened to confirm that a production horse died on 21st March,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “The incident took place in the morning whilst the horse was being exercised prior to rehearsals. The trainer was not in costume and filming had yet to commence. Both a veterinarian and a representative of the American Humane Association were present at the time. The independent necropsy has confirmed that the horse died of cardiac failure.”
Sources near the “Rings of Power” production share that more than 30 horses were being employed on the day the incident occurred. The horse suffered cardiac arrest while standing with about 20 other horses.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) promptly issued a statement condemning the incident, urging the entertainment industry to make changes so that productions no longer employ real horses.
“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,” PETA senior vice president Lisa Lange wrote in a statement to Variety. “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.”
PETA released a similar statement in July 2022 following the death of a horse on the set of HBO’s “The Gilded Age.” HBO stated that the horse “likely died of natural causes, according to a veterinarian’s preliminary findings” and that the body was transferred to a facility for a full necropsy.
While PETA has argued that horses should not be used in film or television productions at all, it has stated that equine behaviorists should be on set at all times when they are.
Director Peter Jackson also received criticism around the release of his “Lord of the Rings” prequel, 2012’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” for the death of three horses, as well as a group of other animals, during the film’s production. Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” trilogies were distributed by New Line Cinema and Warner Bros., while “The Rings of Power” is a Prime Video production.
After filming in New Zealand for its first season, “The Rings of Power” has moved to the United Kingdom, employing a new horse supplier in the Devil’s Horsemen. Over a history spanning five decades, the organization has worked with large-scale productions such as “Game of Thrones.”
The first season of “The Rings of Power” carried an estimated production budget of $450 million. Prime Video has committed to five seasons of production, part of a $250 million rights deal struck with the Tolkien estate in November 2017.
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