By 3 News online staff
An animal handler who worked on The Hobbit says he never meant to tarnish the film’s reputation.
John Smythe was a handler on the Wellington farm where animals for The Hobbit were kept and supports claims that about 26 animals died from maltreatment.
It has been alleged that five horses, a pony, and several goats, sheep and chickens were maimed or killed at the farm during the movie’s production.
He was dismissed from the job in October last year and told the New Zealand Herald it was because he refused to keep quiet about the treatment of the animals, and did not get along with his manager’s wife.
But Mr Smythe says it was not his intention to harm the reputation of The Hobbit, he was just angry about the conditions on the farm.
“I never intended to tarnish the movie or Peter Jackson,” he told the Herald. “But I couldn’t stand by and let the same thing keep happening.”
However the Herald reports his colleagues at the farm say Mr Smythe’s behaviour towards the animals was unacceptable.
They described him kicking a pig in the head and using spurs on the horses.
“He has been intimidating, threatening, and I have feared for my safety,” a female colleague stated.
But Mr Smythe denies this behaviour.
“It’s all lies. There was no threatening behaviour, no abuse of animals on my behalf.”
A spokesman for trilogy director Sir Peter Jackson on Monday acknowledged that horses, goats, chickens and one sheep died at the farm near Wellington where about 150 animals were housed for the movies, but he said some of the deaths were from natural causes.
The spokesman, Matt Dravitzki, agreed that the deaths of two horses were avoidable, and said the production company moved quickly to improve conditions after they died.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first movie in the planned US$500 million trilogy, will launch with a red-carpet premiere November 28 in Wellington and will open at theatres in the US and around the world in December.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) says it will hold protests at three of the world premieres.