[caption id="attachment_40565" align="alignleft" width="300"] Peter Jackson / Facebook[/caption]
Protestors and activists are planning to demonstrate at the international premieres for "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" after allegations that 27 animals died during filming due to unsafe conditions on the farm where they were being housed, according to The Daily Mail.
In response, Peter Jackson has issued a strongly-worded statement denying those claims.
"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."
While the American Humane Association, which oversees the use of animals on film sets, has verified that no animals were harmed during the actual filming of the movies, several animal wranglers who worked on Peter Jackson's epic trilogy have alleged that a number of animals died off set at the facility rented to care for them.
A spokesman for Jackson's production company has confirmed that the deaths of two horses were "avoidable and we took steps to make sure it didn't happen again."
Mark Stubis, a spokesman for the AHA, said that his group did inspect the farm but that the deaths highlight a loophole in their oversight of the use of animals on film sets.
"We would love to be able to monitor the training of animals and the housing of animals," Stubis said. "It's something we are looking into. We want to make sure the animals are treated well all the time."
At the center of the controversy are allegations brought by wrangler Chris Langridge, who was hired as a horse wrangler in December, 2010 but quit just two months later after injuries to two horses resulted in one having to be euthanized. Langridge characterized the facility as being full of "death traps."
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is scheduled to be released in the United States on Dec. 14. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is planning protests for the New Zealand, U.K. and U.S. premieres.