21 February 2020

Have your say: Should live animals be used in the London 2012 Opening Ceremony?

June 22, 2012
Have your say: Should live animals be used in the London 2012 Opening Ceremony?

Plans to use live animals in the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games have provoked the leading animal protection organisations in the UK to write to the Director of Ceremonies, Bill Morris, urging him to reconsider.

This got us thinking. Do we really need to feature animals in order to put on a good show or are they an important part of the Ceremony? Have a read of the letter below and get vocal – we want to hear your views.

21st June 2012

Dear Mr Morris and Committee Members,

We, the undersigned organisations, made up of leading UK animal protection groups, formally voice our opposition to the proposed use of live animals during the Olympic opening ceremony, on the following grounds:

Sheep, chickens, horses, geese and ducks are prey animals and therefore have a well-developed instinct towards “flight” in situations that they find distressing. Subjecting these animals to more than 62,000 cheering people, bright lights, high sound levels and the frenetic atmosphere of the event, while preventing them from exercising their natural instinct to remove themselves or hide, will be a highly stressful and probably terrifying experience for them. The recognition of the risk that the ceremony is highly likely to cause fear and distress renders the Olympic organisers liable to prosecution under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Public opinion
Many members of the public have already registered their opposition to the plans by writing directly to organisers or by putting their names to one of at least two petitions that have attracted over 11,000 signatures after just one week. We expect the opposition to continue to grow considerably.

The message is clear: a large body of opinion does not want the UK to be represented on this important global stage in this manner. The Olympic organisers must listen to the voice of the public.

Misleading messages
We hope that you are also aware that the portrayal of free ranging animals in lush green pastures is simply unrepresentative of the contemporary UK farming industry. The majority of animals farmed in Great Britain are subjected to intensive farming methods; crowded into cages, barns and industrialised units. To suggest otherwise to a global audience of billions is false, unethical and damaging to the cause of progressive reform.

We recognise that the decision to use animals is unlikely to have been taken with the deliberate intent of causing harm and suffering to those individuals involved, or to paint a false picture, as it does, of farming today in the U.K., but the problems have now been clearly set out and cannot be simply ignored and false impressions cannot be a part of the show we all look forward to seeing do our nation proud. You can turn the tide on the growing opposition by taking the simple, ethical and compassionate decision to cancel the use of animals in the opening. After all, the Olympics present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to showcase British animatronics and theatrical expertise to a global audience. A stage show like War Horse has enthralled far greater audiences by displaying wonderful puppetry skills than had they unimaginatively used live horses. With the immense talent in this country, we respectfully ask you to reconsider and follow their compassionate example.

Please make the right decision: do not exploit animals for entertainment in our nation’s name.

Yours faithfully,

Andrew Tyler, Director, Animal Aid
Jan Creamer, Chief Executive, Animal Defenders International
Liz Tyson, Director, the Captive Animals’ Protection Society
Dil Peeling, Director of Public Affairs, Compassion in World Farming
Mimi Bekhechi, Manager, PETA Foundation
Justin Kerswell, Campaigns Manager, Viva!

Image credit: CharlesC/Wikimedia Commons

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