People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals bosses are refusing to let Peter Jackson and the producers of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey back out of a scandal involving the deaths of 27 horses, sheep, goats and chickens on the set of the Lord Of The Rings prequel.
Peta officials wrote to the moviemaker for an explanation after animal wranglers on the set in New Zealand went public with allegations suggesting poor conditions and the incompetence of trainers led to several of the animal deaths.
Jackson and his producers responded on Monday (19Nov12), insisting they went to great lengths to make sure the animals used in the film were safe at all times during filming - but the activists have accused the moviemakers of dodging the issue of what went on between takes on a farm where the creatures were housed.
Peta media officer Wendy Wegner tells Wenn, "Five whistleblowers reported more than two dozen animal deaths during the production of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. They raised concerns not just once but repeatedly to both the head wrangler and the head of production about the unsafe housing conditions for animals and about Shanghai the horse, who was hobbled - his legs reportedly tied together when he proved to be too energetic for his rider. But their concerns were outright ignored.
"With the exception of the hobbled horse, all claims of animal injury and death are directly related to how the animals were housed and fed. Jackson attempts to deflect these serious charges by talking about the use of animals during action sequences - even though these damning incidents did not take place when cameras were rolling.
"Two horses went over steep embankments and died - one was found with her head submerged in water, a horse sustained a severe injury after being put in with other horses despite known problems, sheep broke their legs in sinkholes, and chickens were mauled by dogs - all instances of extreme negligence.
"It seems to Peta that instead of vainly defending himself, Jackson should be giving a firm assurance that this will never happen again. He is the Cgi master and has the ability to make the animals and other interesting creatures in his movies 100 per cent Cgi, and Peta calls on him again to do so."