Peta condemns Rings of Power producers after horse dies on set of Lord of the Rings spin-off

The animal rights group Peta has condemned the use of live animals on set after a horse died during the production of Amazon’s television series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

The horse had a cardiac arrest on 21 March, while the fantasy spin-off was rehearsing for its second season in the UK.

“We are deeply saddened to confirm that a production horse died,” said a spokesperson for Amazon Studios on Sunday morning. “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 standing near 20 other horses when its heart stopped, sources told Deadline. More than 30 horses were reportedly on set that day.

In a statement released shortly after the news broke, Peta said the show was “exploiting animals” and called for film and television productions to use CGI in place of real creatures.

“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,” said Peta’s 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.”

All horses used in the second season of The Rings of Power were provided by the Devil’s Horsemen, a supplier of horses and stunt people in the film industry.

The company has worked with big-name series including Game of Thrones and The Crown, as well as Hollywood productions such as Justice League and Transformers.

The Lord of the Rings franchise has come under fire previously for its treatment of live horses.

In 2012 the director Peter Jackson was criticised for the production of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Animal wranglers on set alleged that three horses, as well as other farm animals, had died during production.

In a response at the time, Peta launched a petition urging filmgoers to “refuse to see movies” where animals have been harmed.

Jackson later denied the claims that any animals had been mistreated, calling them “unsubstantiated”.

“The production regrets that Peta has chosen to make such a serious allegation, which has distressed many of the dedicated Kiwis who worked with animals on the film,” Jackson wrote on Facebook.

The Rings of Power is a prequel to The Lord of the Rings set in Middle-earth thousands of years before the events of the film series.

Its first season, which was filmed in New Zealand, became a blockbuster success for Amazon. The studio claimed it was the “biggest premiere in the history of Prime Video”, drawing 25 million viewers in its first 24 hours.