Animal wranglers on the New Zealand set of "The Hobbit" trilogy have spoken out about the deaths of 27 animals, who died "largely because they were kept at a farm filled with bluffs, sinkholes and other 'death traps,'" the AP reports.
Although no animals were harmed during actual filming, the wranglers and the American Humane Association argue that the conditions at the Wellington farm they were housed in were dangerous:
The Associated Press spoke to four wranglers who said the farm near Wellington was unsuitable for horses because it was peppered with bluffs, sinkholes and broken-down fencing. They said they repeatedly raised concerns about the farm with their superiors and the production company, owned by Warner Bros., but it continued to be used. They say they want their story aired publicly now to prevent similar deaths in the future.
One wrangler said that over time he buried three horses, as well as about six goats, six sheep and a dozen chickens. The wranglers say two more horses suffered severe injuries but survived.
Although Matt Dravitzky, a spokesman for the movie, said that some of the deaths were of natural causes, he conceded that the deaths of two horses could have been avoided. "We do know those deaths were avoidable and we took steps to make sure it didn't happen again," he said.