The deaths, report animal wranglers who were on the set, didn’t stem from the shooting or stunts. Instead, it was the conditions on the farm where the animals were kept while not on-screen that led to the problems. The farm near Wellington, New Zealand, was unsafe because it had sinkholes, poorly maintained fences and other hazards for the animals, according to the Associated Press.
A spokesman for Peter Jackson, the director of the upcoming three-film story, said two of the deaths, both horses, were avoidable. He added that following those deaths, conditions at the farm were improved. The production company spent hundreds of thousands of dollars fixing the farm.
The American Humane Association, which oversees film shoots featuring animals, inspected the farm following the first deaths at the request of the production company. A spokesman for the AHA said that the company followed the AHA’s recommendations
The Hobbit is scheduled to open with a premiere in Wellington on Nov. 28. It will open in the U.S. on Dec. 14.