Horses Continue to Suffer on Production Sets

Two horses, attached to a carriage, ran frantically into a barrier on a set at Mumbai’s Film City. In the high-speed collision, the horses crashed to the ground and were unable to get up. This awful, avoidable crash was doubtless traumatic for the horses and reportedly left at least one of them with a fracture. The incident happened on a Sobo Films set, reportedly during a shoot of the serial Ek Mahanayak: Dr B R Ambedkar.

PETA India obtained footage of the crash from a whistle-blower and is now taking every course of action to ensure those involved are held responsible. This includes filing formal complaints with local police, the Animal Welfare Board of India, and Film City management.

This crash is reminiscent of the horrific incident in which a horse was involved in a head-on collision on the set of India’s Ponniyin Selvan in 2021. The horse died on set. PETA India joins other PETA entities around the world in calling on all film and show producers to cut the cruelty and switch to modern, humane computer-generated imagery (CGI) and other visual effects technology.

On the set of Amazon Prime’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, a horse suffered cardiac arrest and died.

Multiple whistle-blowers spoke out when a horse died on the set of The Gilded Age, forcing HBO to release a public statement confirming that a horse had collapsed and died while pulling a carriage on set. Another whistle-blower report about the show alleged that horses were being worked to the point of exhaustion.

During the filming of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, whistle-blowers reported multiple incidents of cruelty and neglect, including that horses had died after being injured on set, a horse had been tied up and left for three hours on the ground, goats and sheep had died from worm infestations, and animals had been trampled. Just before that, HBO cancelled the horse racing series Luck, following the deaths of at least three horses.

Yet another whistle-blower complained about the treatment of horses on the set of a major blockbuster released in the summer of 2022. The horses were reportedly made to work in extreme heat without adequate access to shade or other relief from the elements.

These issues, which occur with great frequency, are bound to continue in an industry that cares more about getting the “right shot” than considering the inherent rights of the animals it uses. That’s why PETA India is calling on all producers to commit to making their projects without using real horses. If they can’t avoid exploiting animals for their projects, they should find a new profession, because no one wants to see a movie or TV show with torment as the theme.

What Can Films and TV Shows Do Better?

In such a creative industry, there are better ways to show animals in movies and TV shows without using them at all. Special tracks have been used in some films to help with horses’ footing, and breakaway ropes can be used to prevent tripping. But even with these precautions, animals can be hurt or killed. In War Horse, a horse died during transit despite the precautions that were taken on set.

It’s time for Westerns, period pieces, and all films and shows to remove the use of horses altogether. If productions can’t use humane and realistic CGI, mechanical rigs, and other humane alternatives, they should consider reworking their stories entirely.

Please appeal to Sobo Films to cut the cruelty by using CGI and other visual effects technology instead of exploiting animals.

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