Harry Potter stage show removes live owls after bird flies over preview audience
Live owls have been removed from the production of Harry Potter And The Cursed Child after one escaped into the audience.
Animal welfare charities welcomed the producer's decision to drop the live birds after a barn owl flew over the audience instead of returning to its handler during the show's first preview on June 7.
In a statement, producers said: "The production of Harry Potter And The Cursed Child is currently in its preview stage, with the process designed to allow the creative team time to rehearse changes or explore specific scenes further before the play's official opening.
"As part of this process earlier this week the decision was made not to feature live owls in any aspect of the production moving forward.
"The owls that were associated with the production were expertly cared for by a team of certified trainers and an on-site specialist veterinary surgeon (Steve Smith, MRCVS) who ensured the owls' welfare and enrichment needs were safeguarded at all times.
"This was of utmost importance to the production."
Peta UK said this was "a huge relief for all Harry Potter fans who care about animals".
"Owls are shy, sensitive and utterly unsuited to being put on display in a hot, noisy theatre, night after night.
"Treating them like props goes against every message of respect and kindness expressed in JK Rowling's much-loved books.
"The West End offers many innovative stage productions such as War Horse and The Lion King that create breathtaking effects without exploiting animals.
"It's great news that Harry Potter And The Cursed Child will be following in this tradition of creative - and compassionate - entertainment."
Theatre-goer Andrew Sims saw the owl's escape and shared a picture of a sign that had appeared at the Palace Theatre London at the preview of the play's second part.
It read: "During the performance you will see some birds in cages but please note these birds are not real - just very realistic pieces from our brilliant props department!
"There are no real birds featured in the production."
Harry Potter And The Cursed Child officially opens on July 30.