NZ must probe Hobbit abuse - PETA
New York - The animal rights group PETA called on New Zealand's government on Monday to probe what it said was the death of horses, chickens and other animal extras on the set of The Hobbit movies.
After producers of Peter Jackson's highly anticipated Tolkien trilogy rejected earlier accusations of animal mistreatment, US-based PETA said it was time for the government to "investigate these allegations for possible violations of New Zealand animal protection laws and take appropriate action".
PETA said that if its information was "accurate, the production company and others are surely criminally responsible for these injuries and deaths".
The group says that animal wranglers on the film reported the deaths of at least 27 animals, including three horses, six goats, six sheep and 12 chickens.
'No animals died or were harmed'
Incidents allegedly included a pony named Rainbow which broke its neck and back after being stabled with two "highly-strung" horses, and chickens killed by dogs.
Up to 100 000 people were expected to line the streets of Wellington on Wednesday for the world premiere of the Middle Earth epic The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Last week, producers said that the American Humane Association monitored all use of animals during the shoot and "no animals died or were harmed on set during filming".
"The producers completely reject the accusations that 27 animals died due to mistreatment during the making of the films," the statement said.