Horse Dies on Amazon’s ‘The Rings of Power’ Set, PETA Calls for Use of CGI Animals

A tragedy has occurred on the set of Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power — a production horse perished during rehearsals for a season two scene.

The horse died March 21 of cardiac arrest, the studio confirmed.

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“We are deeply saddened to confirm that a production horse died,” an Amazon Studios 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.”

The horse was one of about 30 on set on that day, all supplied by respected outfitter The Devil’s Horsemen, which has provided horses for many shows, including Game of Thrones. This is apparently the first on-set animal fatality in the company’s 50-year history. The horse is said to have shown no prior health problems and was standing among 20 other horses before it died.

The animal rights organization PETA issued a statement calling on the show to “stop lording over animals.”

“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,” said senior vice president Lisa Lange. “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.”

In general, productions have become far more careful about the treatment of animals on set over the last two decades. Yet any animal death, regardless of fault, tends to result in at least some backlash amid an ongoing push by activists for productions to use CG instead of live animals whenever possible. One of the most notorious incidents was on HBO’s 2012 horse-racing drama Luck, where three horses died during filming and the network canceled the show after one season due to animal safety concerns. Last year, HBO’s series The Gilded Age also had a horse death, which the network said was due to natural causes.

The below video positively chronicles the behind-the-scenes work of The Devil’s Horseman and was released by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports governing body, which is considered very strict about animal welfare.

The Rings of Power has been filming its second season for months in the U.K. and has announced many new castmembers are joining the series. The first season’s eight episodes were released last spring and quickly became the streamer’s most-watched original series, racking up more than 24 billion minutes streamed. The Rings of Power tells the story of Middle-earth’s second age. The next eight-episode season is expected to hit Prime Video in 2024.

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