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 New Zealand 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.
A spokesman for trilogy director Peter Jackson today 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. He agreed that the deaths of two horses were avoidable, and said the production company moved quickly to improve conditions after they died. The wranglers say they repeatedly raised concerns about the farm with their superiors and the production company, owned by Warner Bros., but it continued to be used. Click for heartbreaking details from the four wranglers who spoke to the AP. (Read more The Hobbit stories.)