The Hobbit – pass notes No 3,285

Campaigning group Peta is up in arms about the number of animals that died during the filming of Peter Jackson's new blockbuster

Age: As a book, 75. As film, the first has its premiere next week.

Appearance: Computer-generated dragons and disgracefully real animals.

Disgracefully real animals? Yep. Needlessly real animals, made of meat, fur and feathers instead of microchips and motion-capture.

Fur and feathers? Obviously that's two different animals. But both disgracefully real.

Says who? Says campaigning group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta).

What's Peta's argument? It reckons director Sir Peter Jackson "could have made The Hobbit without using a single animal – and he should have".

Because an animated version would be truer to the child-like spirit of the original book? No, because had the animals been computer-generated then none of them would have died.

Ah. But they weren't, and they did? That's right. Out of around 150 animals used, at least two horses, three goats, one sheep and about eight chickens passed away during the making of the film.

And not, presumably, of natural causes? In some cases, sure, but Peta whistleblowers allege up to 27 animals died and almost all the deaths were preventable, caused by a mixture of uneven terrain on the farm, poorly chosen feed and simple negligence. Peta is now planning to hold protests outside the film's UK and American premieres.

So what do Sir Peter Jackson's people say? They admit there were a few early casualties, but claim they quickly solved the problems that had caused them. They have also released statements from the vets, farmers and horse wranglers involved accusing the whistleblowers of sour grapes and praising "the Hobbits" for treating their livestock with "the utmost care and responsibility".

Apart from the ones that died? No, even the ones that died. You just can't make The Hobbit without breaking a few eggs. And a few chickens. And a handful of horses, goats and sheep.

Plus you have to kill a dragon. Well, yes, but there probably won't be too many people protesting about that.

Do say: "They shoot movies, don't they?"

Don't say: "JRR! JRR! How many orcs have you killed so far?"

The GuardianTramp

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