UPDATE, 4:01 p.m.: The American Humane Association said Monday that, while no animals might have actually died on the set of "The Hobbit," the off-set deaths of the animals were "needless and unacceptable."
“We must bring the same high degree of safety and humane treatment that has been achieved on the set to animals throughout their life, including training, housing, and safe, dignified retirement,” AHA president and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert said in a statement. “We owe it to these hard-working and beloved members of our community, just as we work to take care of their human counterparts. Anything less is unacceptable.”
Director Peter Jackson has denied an Associated Press story that claims that as many as 27 animals died on the set of "The Hobbit" trilogy.
In a joint statement with the other producers on the fantasy films, Jackson said that great pains were taken and hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent to provide good care for the animals on the picture. He said allegations that animals were mistreated off the set were only now being brought to the producers' attention.
"The producers completely reject the accusations that twenty seven animals died due to mistreatment during the making of the films," the statement reads. "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."
With safety in mind, Jackson added that over fifty five per cent of all shots using animals in "The Hobbit" are computer generated.
The story quotes four wranglers on the production who claim that the farm used to house animals near the film's New Zealand set had bluffs and sinkholes, which are dangerous for horses who need level ground on which to run. They claim that a Warner Bros. owned production company ignored their concerns.
Jackson and the producers denied accusations they were indifferent to any issues that were raised.
"Any incidents that occurred that were brought to [producer's] attention as regards to this care were immediately investigated and appropriate action taken," Jackson and the producers said in a statement.
Animal rights groups tell the Associated Press they plan to boycott "The Hobbit" premiere in response to the accusations.
A spokesperson for the American Humane Association, which monitors the treatment of animals on movies, did not immediately respond to TheWrap's request for comment.
However, a spokesperson did tell the Associated Press that no animals were hurt during filming, but acknowledged that off-set treatment of animals remains a blind spot. He said the organization investigated the farm in question and made recommendations to improve safety measures by repairing fencing and housing; suggestions the farm implemented.
Jackson said the producers are currently investigating the allegations and are attempting to speak with all parties involved.
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," the first film in the planned trilogy, hits theaters on Dec. 14.