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Animal wranglers say that up to 27 animals have died during the production of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, which is currently being filmed in Jackson’s home country of New Zealand.
According to RTT News, the wranglers say that the animals were kept at a farm with bluffs, sinkholes and other features they called “death traps.”
The wranglers spoke to the Associated Press, noting that they had warned Warner Bros. about their concerns, but the studio still used the farm. One said he had to bury three horses, as well as about six goats, six sheep and a dozen chickens.
The American Humane Association said that there were no deaths during filming. However, it did admit that the concerns show that there are problems with its oversight system.
Matt Dravitzky, a spokesman for Jackson, said that after the first two horses died, steps were taken to make sure it wouldn’t happen again and that they were avoidable. The spokesman also noted that the goats had died of natural causes and blamed a careless staff for the chickens’ death.
Dravitzky noted that these concerns were made public close to the first film’s premiere date next month. Still, the producers are looking into the claims “and are attempting to speak with all parties involved to establish the truth.”
The first Hobbit film, An Unexpected Journey, opens on Dec. 14. As a result of the wranglers’ claims, PETA plans on protesting the film’s release.
Jackson is making two more films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel. The budget is estimated at $500 million.