Peter Jackson, right, with actor Martin Freeman on the set of <i>The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey</i>.

Peter Jackson, right, with actor Martin Freeman on the set of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

It's Peter versus PETA, after accusations that 27 animals died of mistreatment on the set of New Zealand director Peter Jackson's latest blockbuster The Hobbit.

Claims surfaced on Monday that horses, goats, chickens and a sheep used in the film had died after being housed at a farm, described by wranglers who worked on the film as full of "death traps".

One said that over time he buried three horses, as well as about six goats, six sheep and a dozen chickens. Two other horses were injured, he said, but survived.

A spokesman for Jackson admitted there had been "avoidable" deaths, including one horse that had died after "falling over a bluff", but said hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent upgrading housing and stable facilities in early 2011.

The American Humane Society, which was called in after the deaths, inspected the property, made recommendations (that were acted upon) and later passed the film, declaring no animals had died "during filming".

That wasn't good enough for PETA, however, which this week started calling for animal lovers to boycott the film when it opens in New Zealand on November 28.

Clearly rattled by the prospect of protesters invading his red carpet, Jackson hit back yesterday with a statement "completely rejecting" the accusations that the animals died due to mistreatment, and pointed the finger at "wranglers who were dismissed from the film over a year ago".

"We are currently investigating these new allegations and are attempting to speak with all parties involved to establish the truth," a spokesman for Jackson said.