Wingnut Films says Hobbit horses died off the set

New Zealand director Sir Peter Jackson's film company has acknowledged several animals died while it was making the Hobbit movies, including two horses and a steer in what it called "unfortunate accidents".

The company is being criticised by the international animal rights organisation PETA, which claims 27 animals died because of mistreatment over the course of the two-year production.

A Wingnut films spokesperson Matt Dravitzki says any animal that died, did so off-set at a training farm in the North Island.

He disputes PETA's claim of 27 fatalities but says there were several animal deaths, including two horses which fell over a bank and had to be euthanised because their injuries could not be treated.

The American Humane Association, which monitors the welfare of animals on movie sets, visited the farm following the deaths and made safety recommendations.

Mr Dravitzki says significant upgrades have been made to animal houses and fencing on the property.

He says the production company strongly rejects the claims any deaths were due to mistreatment and is speaking with the animal wranglers who worked on the films.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first film of Sir Peter's latest trilogy based on J R R Tolkien's books and opens on 28 November.

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