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Up to 27 'Hobbit' Animals Died on Unsafe Farm

Animal wranglers involved in the making of "The Hobbit" movie trilogy say the production company is responsible for the deaths of up to 27 animals.
Animal wranglers involved in the making of "The Hobbit" movie trilogy say the production company is responsible for the deaths of up to 27 animals, largely because they were kept at a farm filled with bluffs, sinkholes and other "death traps."

The American Humane Association, which is overseeing animal welfare on the films, says no animals were harmed during the actual filming. But it also says the wranglers' complaints highlight shortcomings in its oversight system, which monitors film sets but not the facilities where the animals are housed and trained.

Director Peter Jackson and the trilogy's other producers issued a joint statement on Monday defending the animals' treatment during production of the films. He said that hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent to ensure good care for the animals, and that the producers were never notifed of the allegations.

"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."

A spokesman for Jackson on Monday acknowledged that horses, goats, chickens and one sheep died at the farm near Wellington where about 150 animals were housed for the movies, but he said some of the deaths were from natural causes.

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