Four animal wranglers involved in the 'The Hobbit' movie trilogy claim that 27 animals died because they were kept on a farm filled with bluffs, sinkholes and broken-down fencing.
The wranglers told the Associated Press that they repeatedly raised concerns about the farm with the production company, owned by Warner Bros., but it continued to be used.
Wrangler Chris Langridge told the Associated Press: "The first horse to die was a miniature named Rainbow. When I arrived at work in the morning, the pony was still alive, but his back was broken. He'd come off a bank at speed and crash-landed. He was in a bad state."
Wrangler Johnny Smythe said that soon after Langridge left, a horse named Claire was found dead, after it fell over a bluff. Smythe said the six goats and six sheep died after falling into sinkholes, contracting worms or eating contaminated feed.
The American Humane Association says no animals were harmed during the actual filming, but adds that it does not check the facilities where the animals are housed and trained.
Matt Dravitzki, a spokesman for trilogy director Peter Jackson, on Monday acknowledged that horses, goats, chickens and one sheep died at the farm near Wellington, New Zealand, where about 150 animals were housed for the movies.
Dravitzki agreed that the deaths of two horses were avoidable, and said the production company quickly improved conditions after they died.
'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,' the first movie in the planned $500 million trilogy, is scheduled to premiere on Nov. 28 in Wellington.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals [PETA] is planning protests at the premieres in New Zealand, the U.S. and the U.K.