CHICAGO (CBS) — Opening day of the film ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ was being met with protests by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports PETA activists wearing horse masks were picketing outside the AMC River East 21 movie theater on Friday.

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Katie Arth said they wanted “to remind people 27 animals died to make The Hobbit. … It is absolutely unnecessary to use animals in films anymore. Great films, such as Planet of the Apes, didn’t use a single animal. Yet to produce The Hobbit, they used animals that died, that were mistreated – such as a horse named Shanghai, who had his legs tied together, in a process called hobbling, to calm him down for hours, because he was energetic.”

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The activists were not asking people to boycott The Hobbit. They said they just want the film industry to stop using animals.

“We’re encouraging people to contact [director] Peter Jackson, and let him know that in the future, we don’t want to see animal deaths happen again, by using complete CGI and relying on the technology that he’s known for,” Arth said.

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Arth said one horse fell off a cliff during production, and broke her back, then laid on the ground all night until she was euthanized.