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­Hobbit fever sweeps New Zealand; PETA protest on red carpet (PHOTOS)

Published time: November 28, 2012 09:45
Edited time: November 28, 2012 16:50
Animal rights campaigners from PETA hold up placards in protest next the red carpet during the world premiere of "The Hobbit" movie in Courtenay Place in Wellington on November 28, 2012. (AFP Photo / Marty Melville)

Animal rights campaigners from PETA hold up placards in protest next the red carpet during the world premiere of "The Hobbit" movie in Courtenay Place in Wellington on November 28, 2012. (AFP Photo / Marty Melville)

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.

Two airport security officers wait as an Air New Zealand 777-300 plane carrying some cast members of the film "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" taxies on the tarmac at Wellington Airport on November 27, 2012.  (AFP Photo / Marty Melville)
Two airport security officers wait as an Air New Zealand 777-300 plane carrying some cast members of the film "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" taxies on the tarmac at Wellington Airport on November 27, 2012. (AFP Photo / Marty Melville)
Crew and cast members of the film "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" exit their plane after arriving at Wellington Airport on November 27, 2012.  (AFP Photo / Marty Melville)
Crew and cast members of the film "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" exit their plane after arriving at Wellington Airport on November 27, 2012. (AFP Photo / Marty Melville)
Director Peter Jackson walks out onto the stage during the world premiere of "The Hobbit" movie in Courtenay Place in Wellington on November 28, 2012. (AFP Photo / Marty Melville)
Director Peter Jackson walks out onto the stage during the world premiere of "The Hobbit" movie in Courtenay Place in Wellington on November 28, 2012. (AFP Photo / Marty Melville)
Crowds of fans cram the streets during the world premiere of "The Hobbit" movie in Courtenay Place in Wellington on November 28, 2012. (AFP Photo / Marty Melville)
Crowds of fans cram the streets during the world premiere of "The Hobbit" movie in Courtenay Place in Wellington on November 28, 2012. (AFP Photo / Marty Melville)