'The Hobbit' farm unsafe, caused 27 animal deaths, say handlers

Four animal handlers who worked on the forthcoming film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey are speaking out after they say at least 27 animals died in “death traps” on a New Zealand farm where they were kept while being trained for the film.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the four handlers said the farm where the animals were kept and trained was unsafe, due to broken fences and other concerns.

Chris Langridge, who worked with horses used in the film, said sink holes were responsible for the death of a miniature horse named Rainbow, which had to be euthanized after it broke its back.

No animals died during the actual filming, but a spokesperson for the film confirmed that horses, goats, chickens and one sheep died on the farm, though some of those deaths were due to natural causes.

The much-anticipated film is the first of Peter Jackson’s three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book The Hobbit. The entire trilogy will cost an estimated $500 million and the first movie is scheduled to premiere Nov. 28 in Wellington, New Zealand.

It opens in Canada on Dec. 14.

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