Peter Jackson denies animals on 'Hobbit' set died because of negligence

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" includes beloved characters Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen). Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

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Director-producer Peter Jackson and fellow producers of his "Hobbit" trilogy are denying reports that animals died because of negligence during the movies' production in New Zealand.

"The producers completely reject the accusations that twenty seven animals died due to mistreatment during the making of the films," they said in a statement Monday. "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."

They said more than 55 percent of shots of animals in the film were computer-generated.

The Associated Press reported Monday that according to four animal wranglers who worked on the films, up to 27 horses, goats, sheep and chickens died largely as a result of dangerous bluffs, sinkholes and other dangerous conditions at the farm where the creatures were kept and trained.

A representative for the American Humane Association told the AP that while no animals were hurt during filming, it was investigating the claims.

"Any incidents that occurred that were brought to [our] attention as regards to this care were immediately investigated and appropriate action taken," Jackson and the producers said in their statement.

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Matt Dravitzki, a spokesman for the films, told The AP that two horses' deaths and others' injuries "were avoidable and we took steps to make sure it didn't happen again."

He said that to his knowledge, three goats, one sheep and about eight chickens had died from causes including freezing, mauling by dogs and natural causes, and that the production had responded to make conditions safer.

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," the first in the trilogy, opens in the United States on Dec. 14.

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