Warner Bros. Responds to 'Hobbit' Animal Cruelty Allegations

Bilbo Baggins

In The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of 13 dwarves on a journey taking them through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Sorcerers.

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In a statement, the studio says it stands by director Peter Jackson and the trilogy's producers and notes that the story was spread by wranglers fired for cause more than a year ago.

Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema are denying allegations of animal abuse on the set of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit.

In a statement sent late Tuesday, the studio also questioned the timing of the news and noted that the animal wrangler who was the source of the allegations was dismissed with cause more than a year ago.

On Monday, animal wranglers involved with the movie said the production company is responsible for the deaths of up to 27 animals kept at a farm filled with bluffs, sinkholes and other "death traps."

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Jackson and The Hobbit's producers said they "completely reject" the allegations. A rep for Jackson acknowledged the lives lost but said that some died of natural causes.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey hits theaters Dec. 14.

Warner Bros.' statement in full reads:

Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema join Peter Jackson and the producers of THE HOBBIT in vigorously refuting and condemning accusations of animal abuse on the films. The production acted swiftly and responsibly in addressing any incidents involving animals in its care throughout the long filming process, and in fact, measures were taken to protect all farm animals, including those uninvolved with the films.

We question the timing of this misinformation -- given THE HOBBIT's imminent release -- and have no recourse other than to reveal that the primary source of these new allegations can be traced to freelance animal wranglers who were dismissed by the production over a year ago for cause. We are immensely proud of our association with Sir Peter Jackson, his dedicated film crew and the people of New Zealand.