Elijah Wood has questioned claims from animal wranglers on 'The Hobbit' that 27 animals died on the set because of dangerous living conditions.
Speaking to the US site TMZ the star of Peter Jackson's 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy, who has a cameo as Frodo Baggins in 'The Hobbit', questioned the timing of the claims.
[Related story: Jackson denys Hobbit animal death claims]
Calling the story 'heartbreaking', he added 'the timing is so obvious,' implying that those behind the claims may have ulterior motives.
But he admitted that he had not seen the full details of the claims.
“I never saw any of those conditions while I was down there. All of the technicians and everyone who works on the film takes the utmost care of the animals that were filmed,” he said.
It emerged earlier this week that animals had died during the filming of 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey', with wranglers who had consequently left the production claiming the deaths were caused by unsafe conditions and unsuitable terrain at the farm in which they were housed.
It is alleged that two horses died of broken necks after falling from steep embankments on the farm, while other animals fell into sink holes on the site.
Animal rights organisation PETA has said that it will protest at the film's premieres in the US, the UK and New Zealand.
But director Peter Jackson has refuted the claims.
“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,” read a statement.
“Any incidents that occurred that were brought to [producers'] attention as regards to this care were immediately investigated and appropriate action taken.”
The film's world premiere takes place in Wellington, New Zealand, on November 28.