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Live owls dropped from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child production

Snowy owl. Photo: Shutterstock Snowy owl. Photo: Shutterstock
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West End play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has removed live owls from its production.

It follows reports that one of the birds escaped during the first preview performance, on June 7.

The decision has been welcomed by animal rights campaign group Peta, which said the use of live owls in the production “goes against every message of respect and kindness that JK Rowling’s wonderful books taught us”.

A statement from producers confirmed that live owls will no longer feature in the show, which began previews this week at the Palace Theatre and opens officially on July 30.

“The production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is currently in its preview stage, with the process designed to allow the creative team time to rehearse changes or explore specific scenes further before the play’s official opening. As part of this process, earlier this week the decision was made not to feature live owls in any aspect of the production moving forward,” the statement said.

Producers added that the owls’ welfare was of “utmost importance” to the production, and that the birds involved in the show were expertly cared for by a team of certified trainers and an on-site specialist vet.

However, Peta director Mimi Bekhechi said: “It goes completely against [owls’] nature to be subjected to crowds of people and bright lights from theatre productions. Having endured a life of human handling and ‘training’ does not remove their innate fears, temperaments or basic welfare needs, and theatre conditions have the potential to cause them tremendous stress.”

The head of the animal rights group went on to say the decision to remove the owls from the show proved that “animals need not be exploited for the theatre, and that the possibilities of prop design are limited by our own creativity”.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is produced by Sonia Friedman Productions, Colin Callender’s Playground Entertainment and Harry Potter Theatrical Productions.

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