Jackson denies Hobbit animal death claims

Producers of the film say that animals that died during filming were not mistreated

Update: PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have now announced that they will picket the premieres of 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' in Britain, the US and New Zealand.

Mimi Bekhechi, associate director of PETA in the UK, said: “Peter Jackson's films have been at the forefront of the special-effects revolution, but this production's decision to use numerous live animals and allow them to suffer needlessly and die takes the entertainment industry a giant and disgraceful step backwards.”

Original story: Peter Jackson has denied claims that his production of 'The Hobbit' claimed the lives of 27 animals.

Animal wranglers who worked on the film say that as many as 150 animals were housed in unsafe farm premises near Wellington in New Zealand.

[Related story: Ian McKellen broke down over green screen scenes]

Jackson... denies claims of animal mistreatment (Copyright: Warner Bros)

But the director and the producers of the film 'completely reject' the claims, though they admitted that some animals, including horses, goats, chickens and a sheep, had died during the production but of natural causes.

“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,” read a statement.

“Any incidents that occurred that were brought to their attention as regards to this care were immediately investigated and appropriate action taken.

“The producers completely reject the accusations that 27 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 55 percent 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.”

One wrangler Chris Langridge, a horse trainer, claimed that the farm was full of 'death traps', including sink holes, causing injuries to some animals and causing others to be put down.

Despite the rejection of the claims, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has said it will protest at film premieres in the UK, the US and New Zealand.