Animal cruelty allegations surface during Hobbit production filming

NEW ZEALAND -- A week out from the world premiere of the first Hobbit film and producers are denying claims animals died from mistreatment during the making of the movies. An international organization's made the allegations saying it got the information from wranglers.

The Pauatahanui Farm, north of Wellington is where animals used during filming for the Hobbit films were looked after. Now, there are allegations that care wasn't up to standard.

"It's very concerning. I mean, really, the number of our animals allegedly hurt or killed is quite staggering," Claire Fryer with PETA said.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) says it has received three separate reports from animal wranglers and claims 27 animals died as a result of mistreatment on the farm -- including three horses, a dozen chickens, sheep and goats.

Wranglers reported horses fell down bluffs and chickens were mauled by poorly supervised dogs.

Meanwhile, the RSPCA believes the animals were cared for.

"These are things that happen, but they are certainly not willful neglect, Robyn Kippenberger with the RSPCA said.

In a statement, Sir Peter Jackson said the Hobbit production takes animal welfare very seriously and rejects accusations that 27 animals died because of mistreatment. Jackson said some of the accusations made by wranglers dismissed from the film over a year ago are only now being brought to the producers' attention, and an investigation is underway.

"If you know that this has happened and you don't tell someone about it in a timely fashion then you're a party to that offense, and so I think it really tarnishes the allegations. Realistically this movie is a multi-million dollar production where not enough resources were spent making sure animals were safe," Fryer said.

PETA representatives say they're now planning to stage protests at next week's Hobbit world premiere.