Peter Jackson and the producers of The Hobbit trilogy "completely reject" allegations made by animal wranglers involved in making the films that the production was responsible for the deaths of up to 27 animals on set in New Zealand.
The Associated Press reported that some 150 animals were housed at a farm near the town of Wellington, and that unsafe conditions led to the deaths of horses, goats, chickens and sheep. A rep for Jackson acknowledged the lives lost but said that some perished from natural causes.
No animal was harmed during filming; meanwhile, four wranglers have spoken out to the AP, alleging that the farm posed a hazard for horses as the land had such "death traps" as bluffs and sinkholes; one wrangler said a horse named Claire was discovered dead, her head underwater in a stream, after falling over a bluff. Another horse, a pony called Rainbow, was euthanized after breaking his back when he crash-landed on the uneven terrain. Another two horses were allegedly injured when they got caught in some fencing, their legs ripped open.
The wranglers said they discussed the issues with bosses as well as the Warner Bros.-operated production company but still the animals remained at the farm. After two horses died -- an "avoidable" turn of events, said Jackson's rep -- the filmmakers enlisted the American Humane Association to launch an investigation of the farm and "hundreds of thousands of dollars ... were spent on upgrading housing and stable facilities in early 2011."
Nevertheless, PETA plans to protest the New Zealand premiere of the sure-to-be global blockbuster The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which will roll out the red carpet Nov. 28 in Wellington.
The Hollywood Reporter has received Jackson and the Hobbit filmmakers' statement, in full below:
The producers of The Hobbit take the welfare of all animals very seriously and have always pursued the highest standard of care for animals in their charge. Any incidents that occurred that were brought to their attention as regards to this care were immediately investigated and appropriate action taken. This includes hundreds of thousands of dollars that were spent on upgrading housing and stable facilities in early 2011.
The producers completely reject the accusations that twenty seven animals died due to mistreatment during the making of the films. Extraordinary measures were taken to make sure that animals were not used during action sequences or any other sequence that might create undue stress for the animals involved. Over fifty five per cent of all shots using animals in The Hobbit are in fact computer generated; this includes horses, ponies, rabbits, hedgehogs, birds, deer, elk, mice, wild boars, and wolves.
The American Humane Association (AHA) was on hand to monitor all use of animals by the production. No animals died or were harmed on set during filming.
We regret that some of these accusations by wranglers who were dismissed from the film over a year ago are only now being brought to our attention. We are currently investigating these new allegations and are attempting to speak with all parties involved to establish the truth.