Hobbit producers deny mistreatment of animals

The Hobbit and its director Sir Peter Jackson are making headlines around the world amid allegations the production company is responsible for the deaths of up to 27 animals. 

One week out from the film's world premiere, animal wrangers involved in the making of the Hobbit trilogy told the Associated Press that a farm near Wellington that housed animals used in the production was filled with "bluffs, sinkholes and other death traps''. 

Animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has said it will protest at the film's premieres in New Zealand, America and Britain. 

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is set to have its world premiere in Wellington next Wednesday. 

A spokesman for director Peter Jackson has not denied animals died at the farm, but said some of the deaths were from natural causes. 

The spokesman, Matt Dravitzki, said the deaths of two horses were avoidable, but said the production company moved quickly to improve conditions after they died. 

But one wrangler told the Associated Press that he buried three horses, about six goats, six sheep and 12 chickens in his time working at the farm. 

Wrangler Chris Langridge said the first horse to die was a miniature names Rainbow. 

"When I arrived at work in the morning, the pony was still alive but his back was broken. He'd come off a bank at speed and crash-landed. 

"He was in a bad state,'' he told AP. 

A week later another horse, named Doofus, got caught in fencing and sliced his leg open. He survived. 

But shortly later another horse named Claire was found dead with its head submerged in a stream after it fell over a bluff. 

Wrangler Johnny Smythe told AP that no autopsy was performed on another horse which died in the stables. 

He said the horse was bloated and its intestines were full of a yellow liquid. 

He alleges the horse died of digestive problems as the result of new feed. 

Smythe was fired in October 2011 after arguing about the treatment of the animals. 

Since AP reported on the mistreatment of the animals, news agencies around the world have picked up the story, including the Hollywood Reporter, The Daily Mail and The Mirror. 

A statement to the Hollywood Reporter from Sir Jackson and the Hobbit filmmakers today said the films' producers take animal welfare very seriously and any incidents which occurred were immediately investigated and appropriate action was taken. 

"This includes hundreds of thousands of dollars that were spent on upgrading housing and stable facilities in early 2011.'' 

They completely rejected allegations that 27 animals died due to mistreatment.


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