Animal rights groups are up in arms over a recent report that an estimated 27 animals died during wrangling for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Though no animals were harmed during production, the American Humane Association, which oversees animal welfare on the films, says it was the treatment of the animals while being housed and trained for the film that led to so many deaths. According to The Associated Press, Hobbit director Peter Jackson's spokesperson Matt Dravitzki acknowledged the deaths of the animals, but added that some of them were from natural causes. Over 150 animals were being housed at a Wellington farm and included horses, chickens, goats and one sheep.
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"We made safety recommendations to the animals' living areas. The production company followed our recommendations and upgraded fence and farm housing, among other things," an AHA spokesperson commented. Jackson's rep says that once two horses were found dead, the production company spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve the housing situation for the animals. "We do know those deaths were avoidable and we took steps to make sure it didn't happen again," Dravitzki said.
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PETA's senior vice president Lisa Lange commented on the animal deaths in a statement reading in part: "Peter Jackson's films have been at the forefront of the special-effects revolution, but this production's decision to use numerous live animals and allow them to suffer needlessly and die takes the entertainment industry a giant and disgraceful step backward."
This isn't the first time Hollywood has come under fire for animal cruelty. This past March, HBO canceled their horse racing series Luck after three horses died during production.