Martin Freeman, left, and director Peter Jackson on the set of "The… (Todd Eyre / Warner Bros. )
The American Humane Assn., the group charged with overseeing the welfare of animals on sets, called injuries and deaths of animals involved in the movie "The Hobbit" "unacceptable" and said it needs broader authority to look out for the interests of animals.
“We are currently only empowered to monitor animal actors while they are working on production sets,” AHA President and CEO Robin Ganzert said in a statement. “We do not have either the jurisdiction or funding to extend that oversight to activities or conditions off set or before animals come under our protection."
Ganzert's statements come in the wake of questions raised by animal wranglers about injuries and deaths to animals on a farm where they were housed during filming of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." The Warner Bros. release directed by Peter Jackson will open in the U.S. next month.
The AP reported that the film's producers were responsible for deaths of up to 27 animals, including three horses, that were held at a farm near Wellington, New Zealand. The farm was said to have broken-down fencing, bluffs and sinkholes that posed a hazard to the animals. Animal wranglers involved in the film said concerns they raised about the farm were ignored by producers. Questions surrounding the horse incidents were reported in the Los Angeles Times in September.
The AHA, which has been accused by animal rights groups of being too cozy with the industry, certified that "no animals were harmed" during filming of "The Hobbit," saying the incidents occurred off set and were thus outside its jurisdiction. Even so, AHA said upon learning of the injuries it sent inspectors to visit the farm and make recommendations and improvements.
"There are too many incidents off the set and this must stop," Ganzert said. "It is vital that we work with the industry to bring the kind of protection we have for animals during filming to all phases of production.”
In a statement, Jackson and the film's producers said they were investigating the allegations but that they "completely reject the accusations that 27 animals died due to mistreatment during the making of the films. 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."
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