Statements on Olympics Opening Ceremony Animals

In the Olympics shows, we talked about the use of animals in the opening ceremony and when the decision to use them was made.

I promised to blog about the responses I’ve had from both LOCOG (the London Games organisers) and the RSPCA (a venerable animal welfare group whose consultancy advised LOCOG on the use of animals).

Rather than lead you through an interpretation, which would simply be an exercise in showing you how pedantic I can get,  I’m going to simply post the communications dealing with when the decision was taken and the RSPCA were first involved.

Bill Morris, LOCOG Director of Ceremonies, emailed Peta’s Ingrid Newkirk on Jun 26 (says Peta, who supplied us with copies of what they say is their correspondence with LOCOG), saying in part:

The welfare of these animals is of the utmost importance to our team, which is why we took the decision early in the process, before confirming that animals would be involved, to work with the RSPCA. Having engaged the RSPCA’s new Performing Animals Consultancy, all our arrangements to look after these animals have been prepared with, and will be overseen by, the RSPCA.

The RSPCA statement (given to me on Jul 16) includes:

London 2012 has taken a decision to use animals in its opening ceremony. Subsequent to this decision, the RSPCA was approached to give advice on the use of animals and whether their use complies with animal welfare legislation as well as advice on meeting the welfare needs of the animals involved.

While the RSPCA does not endorse or ‘approve’ the use of animals in any form of entertainment, when approached the RSPCA will offer advice to ensure the animals used are free from pain injury and suffering, whether physical or mental and that any impact on the welfare needs of the animals used is minimised to an acceptable level. This advice will always include seeking alternative methods to animal use.

A LOCOG spokeswoman emailed me on Aug 6 to say:

The RSPCA were involved right from the beginning of the creative process.

And on Aug 9, after I asked for clarification, she said:

Hi Ian,

The concept for the Ceremony was finalised in 2011 and the RSPCA became involved at that point to advise on the use of animals. This was before any development of the creative or casting of any part of the show had started to take place.

We announced the use of animals in June 2012 – details here: http://www.london2012.com/news/articles/olympic-opening-ceremony-details-released-boyle-pays-tribute-volunteers.html

Thanks,

[redacted]

Being pedantic, I asked if the decision to use animals was part of the concept, and the spokeswoman replied:

Yes

I double-checked with her that the concept was finalised before the RSPCA became involved.

Yes that’s right.

And whether the decision had any further confirmation or signoff during the ‘creative process’ thereafter.

No it didn’t.

I then asked her about ceremonies director Bill Morris allegedly telling Peta that LOCOG had involved the RSPCA before the use of animals in the Olympics opening ceremony was confirmed. (You see why this didn’t make good radio?)

She said (ellipsis hers):

As I said in my email on the 9 August… The concept was finalised, the RSPCA were involved & advised and it was confirmed – and then the creative process began.

Hope this makes it clearer.

I’m afraid we are not going to go into any more detail about this.

So there we are.

Some footnotes:

  • These are excerpts – for example, I’ve not included other correspondence about the welfare of the animals
  • When I brought up Bill Morris’ email, I did ask the LOCOG spokeswoman for a copy of the exchange to check it’s the same as was received from Peta. She didn’t respond specifically to that. Thus, LOCOG haven’t confirmed or denied the Bill Morris email.
  • Once again, I offer the exchange and draw no conclusions

About Ian McDonald

I'm a British new media person with a passion for radio, and interested in the kind of stories best told when we see humans as part of the world of animal minds. I blogged about why I'm producing The Vegan Option.

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