As Peter Jackson defied the omens, refusing to let earthquakes, fires, life-threatening illnesses, or massive protests stand in the way of his quest to give fans The Hobbit film they've always wanted plus two more films, that hubris reportedly extended to the farm where the production housed its many animals—an unforgiving, blood-stained land full of "bluffs, sinkholes, and other 'death traps'" of a cunning design capable of ensnaring even the wiliest of goats. Four animal wranglers who worked on the film have now lodged complaints against Jackson's company, blaming this for the deaths of 27 animals. And while the American Humane Association has confirmed that no animals were harmed during the actual filming, it's highlighted the deaths as evidence of industry oversight when it comes to monitoring animals while they're away from film sets, as well as in ensuring they're not being sent into death traps.
A spokesman for Jackson's company acknowledged the 27 deaths, though he insisted that some died from natural causes, their dying breaths expressing a final wish that The Hobbit not be overshadowed by undue negative publicity, or they wouldn't get into animal heaven. But there were many whose deaths could not be attributed to the contentment of old age and a job well done—including horses such as Rainbow, a miniature who broke his back after falling off a bank and had to be euthanized. Or Claire, who was "found dead, its head submerged in a stream after it fell over a bluff." Or Doofus, who sliced his leg open on a fence and fortunately survived, but who will suffer a lifetime of never being taken seriously again.
There were also six goats and six sheep who didn't merit naming, apparently, who died after contracting worms or falling into sinkholes—two of the least dignified methods of death in the sheep community. And at least a dozen chickens were mauled to death by dogs on two separate occasions after being let out of their enclosures, their brief, heroic battle against impossible odds currently not being considered for an epic, three-hour movie. However, their memories will endure in the Hobbit films, where they enjoyed their final hours on Earth living out every animal's dream of movie stardom, before living out every animal's nightmare of being sent to Death Trap Bluffs, New Zealand's deadliest farm.