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SPCA says animals were cared for during Hobbit filming

Published: 9:36AM Tuesday November 20, 2012 Source: ONE News

Allegations that animals were severely mistreated during making of The Hobbit in Wellington have been dismissed by the SPCA.

People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) said five horses, a pony, and several goats, sheep, and chickens were allegedly maimed or killed during the making of The Hobbit.

SPCA national chief executive Robyn Kippenberger said it was an unfortunate situation but maintained the animals were cared for.

"It's not the best thing or outcome that you would wish for, but they are certainly not wilful neglect."

Sir Peter Jackson and Hobbit producers have issued a statement saying they ''completely reject'' accusations that 27 animals died due to mistreatment during the making of the films, largely because they were kept at a farm filled with bluffs, sinkholes and other "death traps".

''Any incidents that occurred that were brought to their attention as regards to this care were immediately investigated and appropriate action taken. 

"This includes hundreds of thousands of dollars that were spent on upgrading housing and stable facilities in early 2011.''

Kippenberger said delay in the reports tarnished the allegations.

"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 offence."

PETA spokeswoman Claire Fryer said the high-budget movie should have catered better to the needs of the animals.

"This movie is a multi-million dollar production where not enough resources were spent making sure animals were safe.

"These were avoidable instances."

But Hobbit producers said they took animal welfare seriously.

''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.

''Over 55% of all shots using animals in The Hobbit are in fact computer generated; this includes horses, ponies, rabbits, hedgehogs, birds, deer, elk, mice, wild boars, and wolves.

Some of the allegations were being raised by wranglers dismissed from the film a year ago. Some - but not all - of the allegations were new and would be investigated.

American Humane Association's Film & TV Unit spokeswoman Jone Bouman confirmed the Hobbit set had been monitored by the organisation.

While it was aware of the accusations animals had died, none of those deaths happened during filming.

In March, HBO cancelled the horse racing series Luck after three thoroughbred horses died during production. The network said it cancelled the show because it could not guarantee against future accidents.

- with Fairfax