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23 March 2015, 06:34
The Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour in Leavesden is reviewing animal welfare.
Animal rights campaigners PETA said that on the Animal Actors tour at Warner Bros Studio Tour London an investigator found distressed owls in tiny cages forced to perform "tricks'' in front of crowds of people and flashing lights.
"Members of the public were encouraged to touch the frightened birds, and trainers even irresponsibly told visitors to go out and buy their own owls,'' the organisation said in a statement.
The investigator went on the tour, on which Harry Potter fans can meet Harry's owl, Hermione's cat and other "animal stars'' from the film franchise, because of visitors' complaints about treatment of the animals, it said.
The organisation wrote to the attraction today calling on the company to commit to a ban on using live animals on tours.
PETA director Mimi Bekhechi said: "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.
"PETA are calling on Warner Bros Studio Tour London to make sure that the Harry Potter tour stays magical - and not cruel - by keeping live animals out of it.''
A spokeswoman for Warner Bros Studio Tour London - The Making Of Harry Potter said: "The owls that appeared in the Harry Potter film series occasionally come to the studio tour. They 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. It is essential to us all that the welfare of the birds and animals in their care is of the highest standard.''
A spokeswoman for Birds and Animals said: "The welfare of our birds and animals is our number one priority and we want to ensure they remain stress-free and healthy.
"The owls are always given regular breaks and closely monitored by a vet. Now that we have had the opportunity to see the footage, we have instigated a review of the issues raised. We will take appropriate action to ensure that the birds and animals always receive the very best care.''