Harry Potter studio tour accused of cruelty over use of owls in live shows

The Warner Bros attraction is under fire from animal rights activists Peta

The use of owls and other animals at Warner Bros’ The Making of Harry Potter is under review following reported complaints from visitors.

Animals rights organisation Peta is encouraging the studio tour to stay “magical and not cruel” after obtaining undercover footage that apparently shows “clearly distressed” birds being kept in “tiny cages” and forced to perform “demeaning tricks”.

Based in Leavesden, Hertfordshire, the attraction costs £33 per adult ticket and draws around 5,000 fans daily, with ‘Hedwig’ the owl and Hermione’s cat among its highlights.

“Confining frightened owls to tiny cages where they can only chew at their tethers in frustration goes against every message of respect and kindness that JK Rowling’s wonderful books taught us,” said Mimi Bekhechi, Peta director, with veterinarian Dr Manilal Valliyate adding that it is “completely against their nature to be exposed to crowds, flash photographer and loud noise”.

Warner Bros Studio Tour London has clarified that the owls from the Harry Potter film series “occasionally appear for short periods and are exclusively handled by the experts at Birds and Animals, the company that owns and trains them”.

“We have asked them to review this matter,” a statement read. “It is essential to us all that the welfare of the birds and animals in their care is of the highest standard.”

Birds and Animals insists that welfare is its “number one priority” and has “instigated a review of the issues raised”.

“The owls are always given regular breaks and closely monitored by a vet,” a spokesperson said. “We will take appropriate action to ensure that the birds and animals always receive the very best of care. We want to ensure they remain stress-free and healthy.”

JK Rowling, author of the hugely successful Harry Potter novels, has previously asked her fans to think twice before buying a pet owl.

“If anybody has been influenced by my books to think an owl would be happiest shut in a small cage and kept in a house, I would like to say as forcefully as I can, you are wrong,” she said, according to Peta.

Warner Bros Studio Tour London is yet to respond to our request for comment.

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