Producers of The Hobbit are in big trouble with animal wranglers after as many as 27 animals used during filming of the trilogy died, the U.K.'s Daily Mail says. None of the animals were hurt during filming, but the production company apparently used the unsafest farm known to man and especially beast during filming in New Zealand.
Four wranglers claim they warned Warner Bros. the farm near Wellington was dangrous, with broken fencing, accessible blufs and tons of sinkholes, but about 150 animals were still kept there, resulting in the deaths a horse that broke its back and had to be euthanized, another horse that fell off a bluff, and a third that died of digestive problems from new feed. Six goats and six sheeps also died after falling in sinkholes, got worms or died from new feed, and a dozen chickens were mauled by dogs. A couple other horses suffered leg injuries from broken fences.
None of this went unnoticed, as wranglers complained to unit production manager Brigitte Yorke among others, but didn't receive a reply. One wrangler, Johnny Smythe, said he was fired in October 2011 for complaining about the animals' treatment.
A Peter Jackson spokesman acknowledge a couple horse deaths "were avoidable" and that the company no longer uses the farm. Peter Jackson himself bought from the farm three pigs used in the film, the spokesman said.
The American Humane Association monitors how animals are used, but not where they are kept. A spokesman said they investigated the farm in question in August 2011 at the production company's request. They made recommendations about the animals' living areas and fencing, the spokesman said. The paper adds PETA plans to protest premieres of The Hobbit in the U.S., U.K. and New Zealand.
[Photo: Warner Bros.]