June 28 - Prominent animal protection organisations in the United Kingdom have continued their protests against plans to use live animals in the Olympic Opening Ceremony on July 27 despite insistence from the Organising Committee that they will remain a feature of it.
Opening Ceremony artistic director Danny Boyle revealed earlier this month that his event would feature 12 horses, three cows, two goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, nine geese, 70 sheep and three sheep dogs.
But the plan has seen the Oscar-winning director of Slumdog Millionaire come under sustained attack from leading animal rights figures, including PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) founder Ingrid E. Newkirk who has written a scathing letter to Boyle about London 2012's attempts to "fob-off" their serious concerns regarding the Opening Ceremony.
"I recently expressed the deep concerns of PETA and our affiliates' three million members and supporters regarding your plans to use animals in the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympic Games," says the letter to Boyle.
"I am most upset to have now received a wholly unsatisfactory, fob-off reply to my letter sent on your behalf from the director of ceremonies.
"The facts are not open to debate – to place ducks, chickens, sheep and various other animals at the centre of a 63,000-seat arena under bright lights with a noisy crowd will at the very least cause them a great deal of stress and most likely scare the bejesus out of them.
"Whilst you have taken the time to consult with the RSPCA, and they can indeed advise you on how to avoid blatant cruelty such as horse-tripping, starvation and the like, the mood of the country is not merely to comply with minimum standards of animal care while exploiting animals against their own best interests.
"What PETA and other animal organisations are calling on you to accept is that animals are not mere props to be carted about and placed in unfamiliar surroundings for human amusement.
"That is why animal circuses are going the way of bear baiting.
"As one of the world's premier film directors, surely you can see that the Olympic Games present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Britain to dazzle the world with our state-of-the-art expertise in such things as animatronics, models and special effects, as well as supreme theatrical skills.
"More and more productions are recognising the ethical problems surrounding the use of animals as evidenced by the War Horse stage show that enthralls audiences without subjecting real horses to any stress at all and the animatronics used in the film of the same name.
"Again, I would be more than happy to share with you PETA's extensive contacts in the industry who have created spectacular animal animatronics without harming a single hair or feather on an animal's head.
"Please make the Olympics Opening Ceremony truly creative and humane – drop this horrible plan to use live farmed animals.
"Please do not allow this affair to be marred by animal rights protests when there is absolutely no need for it."
The letter has coincided with a petition from the Captive Animals' Protection Society (CAPS) opposing plans to use animals in the Opening Ceremony.
The petition has gathered 62,000 signatures in two weeks and Liz Tyson, the director of CAPS, says it sends a strong message.
"When committee members are next in the Olympic Stadium overseeing the preparations for the Games, I would like to ask them to take a few moments to look around and imagine it as it will be on the opening night – with a full house," said Tyson.
"Then I would like them to imagine that each and every one of those 62,000 people in those seats had made a personal plea to them to rethink their plans to use animals in the opening.
"We are not talking just a few voices here, but an entire stadium full of people who have said no.
"It is time to listen and do the right thing."
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