A number of animal handlers have spoken out at the dangers on the farm, where a number of animals have died, allegedly due to the unsafe conditions at the farm, which is peppered with sinkholes, bluffs and broken fences.

Chris Landridge was working as a handler with his wife, and has spoken of the “death traps” he saw, and the impact this had on the animals, particularly of one horse, Rainbow, who died after an accident at the farm.

“When I arrived at work in the morning, the pony was still alive but his back was broken. He’d come off a bank at speed and  crash-landed. He was in a bad state.”

Landridge and his wife quit as handlers in February 2011.

The farm was investigated by the American Humane Association Augustin 2011 at the behest of the film’s production company  and a number of recommendations were made, which were followed up on .

A spokesperson for director Peter Jackson has confirmed that some horses, chickens, goats and sheep have died at the nearby farm near Wellington where they are being kept, but that some of these deaths were from natural causes.

The American Humane Association has been overseeing production on the film and have confirmed that no animals have been harmed during the actual production of the movie.

However, the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are planning protests at the film’s premieres next month.

Photo: Warner Bros.