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Wellington - The international animal rights organisation Peta has urged a boycott of the upcoming Hobbit movie, claiming that 27 animals were killed in production in New Zealand, it was reported on Tuesday.
“We are deeply concerned that this movie was such a nightmare for animals,” a spokesperson told Radio New Zealand.
The allegations were rejected by the movie's director Sir Peter Jackson, who said in a statement: “Extraordinary measures were taken to make sure that animals were not used during action sequences or any other sequence which might create undue stress for the animals involved.
“No animals died or were harmed on set during filming.”
The Peta spokesperson said activists would protest at the premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in Wellington on November 28, and when the film opens in the United States and Britain next month.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals website said: “In all, five horses, a pony, and several goats, sheep, and chickens were allegedly maimed or killed.”
The spokesperson said: “Twenty-seven deaths, if that proves to be true, is the most deaths on a single film production we have ever heard of.”
The Peta spokesperson said the deaths and examples of cruel treatment were reported by four horse wranglers who worked on the film. They raised their concerns with the production company but were ignored, she said.
She said a farm where sheep and goats were housed was “apparently riddled with sinkholes - these animals tripped and broke legs and died and this is completely unacceptable for any production company”.
She claimed that horses and other animals died while being kept for filming, including two horses who were run off a cliff by other horses they were kept with.
The spokesperson said: “There are problems in the film industry worldwide in the treatment of animals. There are problems particularly with horses who are very vulnerable.”
She said Peta had approached Jackson with its concerns and were in discussions with him. She would not elaborate.
The Peta website said Jackson was a master at computer-generated imagery (CGI). “In a movie that features CGI dragons, ogres, and hobbits, CGI animals would have fit in perfectly. Jackson could have made The Hobbit without using a single animal - and he should have.”
In his statement, Jackson said: “Over 55 percent of all shots using animals in The Hobbit are in fact computer-generated. This includes horses, ponies, rabbits, hedgehogs, birds, deer, elk, wild boars and wolves.”
The statement said the American Humane Association monitored all use of animals in the production.
It regretted 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 accusations and are attempting to speak to all parties involved to establish the truth.” - Sapa-dpa