WELLINGTON — The producers of "The Hobbit" movies on Tuesday rejected allegations that animals died on set during the making of director Peter Jackson's highly anticipated Tolkien trilogy in New Zealand.
Animal rights group PETA said up to 27 animals, including horses, sheep, goats and chickens, died during filming, prompting it to plan protests against the movies, the first of which has its world premiere in Wellington next week.
Jackson and the producers said in a statement that the American Humane Association monitored all use of animals during the shoot and "no animals died or were harmed on set during filming".
"The producers completely reject the accusations that 27 animals died due to mistreatment during the making of the films," the statement said.
"Extraordinary measures were taken to make sure that animals were not used during action sequences or any other sequence that might create undue stress for the animals involved."
It added that 55 percent of shots featuring animals in the trilogy, which has a budget estimated at US$500 million, were computer-generated.
PETA said former wranglers who worked on the production reported two horses died from broken necks after being run off embankments and another was illegally "hobbled" with its legs tied together.
PETA US senior vice president Lisa Lange said sheep and goats died from worms and after falling into sinkholes in rugged terrain, and a dozen chickens were mauled to death by dogs.
"This production's decision to use numerous live animals and allow them to suffer needlessly takes the entertainment industry a giant and disgraceful step backwards," she said in a statement.
The first of the three movies, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", premieres in Wellington on November 28 and will be released worldwide in December.
PETA said it will protest at the event and at premieres in the United States and Britain.