The animal rights organization PETA protested at the most anticipated film premiere of the year – the opening of “Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey” in Wellington in New Zealand.
PETA’s action against the film was prompted by a scandal that emerged last week. It turned out 27 animals-actors featured in the film died during the making of the picture.
Director Peter Jackson responded to PETA's claim denying accusations of negligence towards the animals.
"The producers of The Hobbit take the welfare of all animals very seriously and have always pursued the highest standard of care for animals in their charge. Any incidents that occurred that were brought to their attention as regards to this care were immediately investigated and appropriate action taken. This includes hundreds of thousands of dollars that were spent on upgrading housing and stable facilities in early 2011," his statement said.
The American Humane Association (AHA) said that none of the horses, goats, sheep and chickens died during the filming. The deaths of the animals were due to negligence over the conditions for housing the cattle.
The first movie in a planned $500 million trilogy – is a prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy – was screened at Wellington's Embassy Theatre on Wednesday evening. For the premiere Wellington city was renamed "the Middle of Middle Earth".
Peter Jackson said it was "emotional and very humbling" to see such a crowd, BBC reports. Up to 100,000 people were said to have gathered in Wellington for the premiere.
The second film is due for release in December 2013 and the third in July 2014.