'Hobbit' producers reject PETA's animal abuse allegations as 'unsubstantiated'

martin-freeman-peter-jackson-hobbit-unexpected-journey-set-production-2012-warner-bros.jpgIt's becoming a war of words between animal rights organization PETA and the filmmakers behind one of the holiday season's most anticipated movies: "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

After the Associated Press published a story claiming as many as 27 animals died as a result of poor conditions at the farm they were housed at during filming, director Peter Jackson and the film's producers released a statement denying the allegations.

"The producers of 'The Hobbit' take the welfare of all animals very seriously and have always pursued the highest standard of care for animals in their charge," the statement reads. "The producers completely reject the accusations that twenty seven animals died due to mistreatment during the making of the films."

The statement also points out that "hundreds of thousands of dollars that were spent on upgrading housing and stable facilities in early 2011" when the producers learned about sub-par conditions for the animals, the American Human Association monitored all use of animals on set and confirm that no animals died or were harmed during filming, and the accusations of mistreatment PETA brought to the attention of the Associated Press came from "wranglers who were dismissed from the film over a year ago ... We are currently investigating these new allegations and are attempting to speak with all parties involved to establish the truth."

PETA lashed out on their website with another allegation not included in the Associated Press article: "A horse named Shanghai was hobbled (his legs were tied together so that he couldn't move) and left on the ground for three hours because he was too energetic for his rider ... Hobbling is an outright violation of the American Humane Association's (AHA) guidelines."

And the production responded in another statement, further blasting the sources of PETA's allegations: "A prompt and thorough investigation into the recent unsubstantiated allegations by the American organisation, PETA, in to the 'hobbling' of a horse during the making of The Hobbit was undertaken. No evidence of such a practice was found to have occurred at any time.

"Further, the production contacted the owner of the horse concerned who provided the following statement: 'I am 100% happy with the return of Shanghai and his condition. In the term that he was leased he was picked up and returned to me two times. On both occasions there was not a mark on him and he was healthy and happy. He has shown no signs of ill-treatment. I would not hesitate in leasing him to the movie again.'

"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.

"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."
Photo/Video credit: Warner Bros.