June 22 - A group of prominent animal protection organisations in the United Kingdom have written a letter to the London 2012 director of ceremonies Bill Morris in which they have urged him to reconsider plans to use live animals in the Olympic Opening Ceremony on July 27.
Earlier this month, the Opening Ceremony artistic director Danny Boyle (pictured below, centre) unveiled the set for the opening scene of the Ceremony called "Green and Pleasant" along with the announcement that it would feature real farm animals with 12 horses, three cows, two goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, nine geese, 70 sheep and three sheep dogs.
But a high profile group comprising of Animal Aid, Animal Defenders International, the Captive Animals' Protection Society, Compassion in World Farming, PETA Foundation (logo pictured below) and Viva! have all signed a letter to Morris underlining the problems of using real farm animals.
"Sheep, chickens, horses, geese and ducks are prey animals and therefore have a well-developed instinct towards 'flight' in situations that they find distressing," read the letter.
"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."
The letter also suggests that the British public are against plans to have real farm animals in the Ceremony.
"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," it said.
"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."
It also suggests that the plan will give misleading messages to the billions watching the Ceremony from around the world.
"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."
The letter concludes by saying: "Please make the right decision: do not exploit animals for entertainment in our nation's name."
But despite the opposition, London 2012 has maintained the resolve to continue with their plan, making the welfare of the animals featuring in the Opening Ceremony one of their main priorities.
"The welfare of the animals is of the utmost importance to our team," a London 2012 spokesperson told insidethegames.
"We are working very closely with the RSPCA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) to ensure their welfare needs are met."
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June 2012: "Green and pleasant" land for London 2012 Opening Ceremony to include live sheep and cows