Director Peter Jackson is denying allegations by the animal rights group PETA that during the filming of The Hobbit in New Zealand, "numerous" animals were allowed "to suffer needlessly and die."
Jackson took to his Facebook page to address the recent accusations, including an alleged incident in which a "hobbling" of a horse occurred during production. The director writes that "a prompt and thorough investigation" was conducted into the allegation and that "no evidence of such a practice was found to have occurred at any time."
"The production regrets that PETA has chosen to make such a serious accusation, which has distressed many of the dedicated Kiwis who worked with animals on the films - including trainers, wranglers, care-givers, farm workers and animal health care professionals - without properly vetting the source from which they received this information," Jackson's statement reads.
In its statement regarding the use of animals during production of The Hobbit, PETA's senior vice president Lisa Lange alleged: "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."
Jackson's Facebook page also includes testimonials of support from local residents, a veteranarian who treated animals during production, as well as actor Jed Brophy, who plays Nori in The Hobbit.
The Associated Press reported on Monday that animal wranglers involved in the making of The Hobbit said the production company was 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."
Addressing the wranglers, Jackson writes: "To date, the only horse wranglers whose treatment of animals fell below the production's standard of care seem to be the two wranglers who have chosen to level this new accusation on the eve of the premiere of the first Hobbit film and who were dismissed by the production over a year ago. Reports of their actions are documented in several written statements dating back to October 2011."