PETA Urges HBO to Investigate Horse Death on Set of ‘The Gilded Age’

Gilded Age Finale
Courtesy of Alison Cohen Rosa/HBO

Animal rights activists are calling on HBO to investigate the death of a horse on the set of “The Gilded Age.”

In a letter to HBO Chief Content Officer Casey Bloys, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) cited whistleblower reports that a 22-year old horse with possible health issues died last week during filming of the historical drama in Nassau County.

“We’re calling on HBO to…hold the party or parties who allowed it to occur responsible,” Courtney Penley, coordinator for animals in film & television for PETA, wrote. “Finally, we’re asking you to take measures so that something similar never happens again.”

After the letter was shared with the media, HBO confirmed that a horse had died on the set on June 28 during filming, but said it was “likely of natural causes, according to a veterinarian’s preliminary findings.”

“The safety and well-being of animals on all our productions is a top priority, and the producers of ‘The Gilded Age’ work with American Humane to ensure full compliance with all safety precautions,” HBO added. The network said that the horse was transported to a facility for a full necropsy, and said that the American Humane Association has interviewed all involved personnel.

Sources say that horse wranglers and a veterinarian said that the horse was not showing any discomfort from the outside temperature, which was in the 70’s, and had not been overworked or overheated prior to its collapse. It had just had an hour rest period and the scene it was shooting when it died involved a carriage and two passengers.

In the letter, Penley notes that another HBO show, 2012’s racing drama “Luck,” was cancelled after one season after news broke that three horses died during production.

“These animals were unfit, arthritic, drugged, and pushed beyond their capabilities,” Penley writes. “Many weren’t accustomed to film sets and had received no training but were retired racehorses. We had hoped HBO might have learned something from that experience: namely, that horses aren’t props. They’re sensitive animals who can be startled easily, and they must be gradually accustomed to the changing conditions on a set.”

The PETA spokesperson argued that horses should not be used in film or television productions, but said if they are, an equine behaviorist should be on set at all times.

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