Four animal wranglers involved in the making of The Hobbit movie trilogy told the Associated Press that as many as 27 animals—horses, goats, chickens, and sheep—died during the production of the Lord of the Rings prequel. The American Humane Association, which oversaw animal welfare during the making of the movies, says no animals were harmed during filming but that the allegations highlight a problem with the system. The AHA monitors film sets, but does not monitor facilities where animals are kept and trained. The wranglers blamed the deaths on "bluffs, sinkholes, and other 'death traps'" at the farm near Wellington, New Zealand, where about 150 animals were housed between takes.
"The producers completely reject the accusations that 27 animals died due to mistreatment during the making of the films," reads a joint statement released by director Peter Jackson in response to the AP report. "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." More than half of all sequences in the films that use animals, according to Jackson, are computer generated.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first film in the planned $500 million trilogy, which is expected to be released over the next two years, will premiere across the United States in mid-December.