Director Peter Jackson has issued a statement denying allegations in an Associated Press article of animal mistreatment during the production of the upcoming fantasy epic The Hobbit. The AP story claims that, according to four wranglers who worked on the film, more than two dozen animals died due to unsafe conditions on a farm near Wellington, New Zealand. But in a joint statement with the film’s producers, Jackson firmly denies the charge that the animals died due to poor treatment on the part of the production. “The producers completely reject the accusations that twenty seven animals died due to mistreatment during the making of the films,” the statement reads. “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.”
The American Humane Association, which monitored the welfare of animals during filming, says no animals were harmed during shooting of The Hobbit, and Jackson’s statement insists that animal safety was always paramount, noting that “over fifty five per cent of all shots using animals in The Hobbit are in fact computer generated.” Nevertheless, the allegations that some 150 animals used in the films were housed on a farm that had dangerous bluffs, sinkholes, broken-down fencing, and other “death traps” have stirred up controversy among animal-rights activists. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has announced plans to protest the premieres of the first installment in the Hobbit trilogy, An Unexpected Journey, which hits theaters Dec. 14.
“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,” the statement reads. “Any incidents that occurred that were brought to their attention as regards to this care were immediately investigated and appropriate action taken. This includes hundreds of thousands of dollars that were spent on upgrading housing and stable facilities in early 2011…. 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.”