The ‘magical’ Harry Potter Tour has come under fire from animal campaigners for their treatment of owls at the popular tourist attraction.
PETA investigators filmed live owls kept in tiny suspended cages and subjected to flash photography, constant crowds and loud music at the Warner Bros tour.
The charity visited the Leavesden site after complaints from visitors about animal abuse at the attraction, which gives film fans a behind the scenes look at the making of the hit Harry Potter franchise.
Visitors can pay to meet Harry’s owl, Hermione’s cat and other animal stars from the film franchise.
Investigators discovered distressed owls in tiny cages forced to perform tricks in front of crowds and flashing lights.
The distressing video also shows visitors encouraged to touch the frightened and flapping birds.
It has prompted PETA to write to Warner Bros Studio Tour London to call on the company to commit to a ban on using live animals on tours.
A vet for the charity Dr Manilal Valliyate said: “Owls are wild, solitary, nocturnal predators, and it is completely against their nature to be tethered inside tiny cages, exposed to crowds, flash photography and loud noise and force to perform ‘tricks’.
“These conditions have the potential to cause them tremendous stress. They don’t enjoy the company of humans or like to be touched by them, and they need to sleep during the day, not be harassed by visitors.”
Owls have especially acute vision and find blinding camera flashes extremely distressing but despite this the PETA video shows a tour worker telling visitors that flash photography is permitted and one fan is seen poking her camera into an owl’s cage.
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 spokesman 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 spokesman for Birds and Animals added: “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.”
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.Mimi Bekhechi