Controversy over use of life animals in London Olympics
An Animal Rights Article from


Global Animals
June 2012

Danny Boyle has caused upset among six animal rights groups with his plan to use over 100 farm animals in the opening show for the 2012 London Olympics. According to the Slumdog Millionaire director, the three-hour spectacle is inspired by a speech from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. According to animal rights groups, not only would the show be traumatic and stressful to the animals, it may also get the Olympics organizing committee prosecuted under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act. Read on for why animal activists and the British farming industry are taking a stand. — Global Animal

By Owen Gibson, The Guardian

Animal rights groups say organising committee may face prosecution if it uses farmyard animals in three-hour spectacular

A coalition of six leading animal rights groups has written to London 2012 organisers in a renewed bid to persuade Danny Boyle, the director of the opening ceremony, to reverse his decision to use live animals in the £27m show.

The groups have warned the London organising committee may be liable for prosecution under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act if it pressed ahead with plans to use more than 100 farmyard animals in the opening scene of Boyle’s spectacular show. The Act forbids intentionally causing undue fear and distress to animals.

Earlier this month, Boyle said the opening scenes would be set in a “green and pleasant land”, with cricketers playing on a village green and ploughs tilling the fields, which are expected to give way to a more urban setting as the three-hour show proceeds.

The show, entitled Isles of Wonder in reference to a speech given by Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, will feature live animals including 12 horses, three cows, two goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, nine geese, 70 sheep and three sheep dogs.

The six groups – Animal Aid, Animal Defenders International, Captive Animals Protection Society, Compassion in World Farming, Peta and Viva – said the experience would be “highly stressful and probably terrifying experience for them”.

They claim that subjecting the animals to “more than 62,000 cheering people, bright lights, high sound levels and the frenetic atmosphere, while preventing them from exercising their natural instinct to remove themselves or hide”, would be a distressing experience for them.

In the letter to Bill Morris, Locog’s director of ceremonies, the groups claim a public petition has attracted more than 11,000 signatures in a single week and urged organisers to “listen to the voice of the public”.

The letter, seen by the Guardian, also complains that the idyllic opening scene will give a misleading impression of the British farming industry and could harm attempts to reform intensive farming methods.

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

Locog has said it will work with the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals to ensure the welfare of those taking part . Boyle joked at his briefing that the animals would be “better looked after than the volunteers”.

In the letter, the six groups urge Boyle to work instead with animatronics and puppetry, pointing to the example of War Horse’s portrayal of animals. Peta has also offered to use its links with figures in the Hollywood film industry to provide an alternative.

The renewed protests could also place Sir Paul McCartney in a difficult position. He has said he is scheduled to close the opening ceremony but has worked closely with some of the animal rights groups involved, including narrating campaign videos for Peta.

A Locog spokesman said: “The welfare of the animals in the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony is of the utmost importance. We are working with the RSPCA which is providing animal welfare advice.’

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