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Ben Hur sparks protest

PUBLISHED: 17:57 23 September 2009 | UPDATED: 17:10 25 August 2010

DEMO: Animal welfare protesters outside the O2.

DEMO: Animal welfare protesters outside the O2.

ANIMAL rights protesters have been campaigning against the use of more than 100 animals in a new blockbuster show.

ANIMAL rights' protesters have been campaigning against the use of more than 100 animals in a new blockbuster show.

Horses, camels, donkeys, chickens, falcons and eagles are used in Ben Hur Live, which had its world premiere at the O2 arena in Greenwich last Thursday before embarking on a year-long European tour.

But according to campaigners from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who were protesting outside venue, the animals are experiencing fear and stress when they are subjected to confinement, intensive training, loud noise, bright lights and unfamiliar environments.

PETA Europe's Poorva Joshipura said: "The actors involved in Ben Hur Live have chosen to participate, but the horses, vulnerable birds and other animals used as living props are forced into this rock concert-like environment that is terrifying for them.

"The use of animals in entertainment belongs in history books, not at the O2 arena in the 21st century after we have learned so much about animals' needs, interests and behaviour."

A spokesperson for Art Concerts said: "We and The O2 have consulted the RSPCA since the beginning of this project and they are happy that we have not contravened any UK animal welfare laws. We have been open and transparent regarding sharing information about the animals involved in the production of Ben Hur Live. Since the beginning we have insisted that the animals are the stars of the show and are therefore treated as such."

A spokesperson for the RSPCA said: "The production team also invited the RSPCA to view the areas where horses are kept when they are not performing.

"Based on what we have seen and discussed with the producers of Ben Hur Live, we are confident that the ways in which horses are being kept and transported during the production do not contravene any UK animal welfare laws. However, we believe further improvements can be made and have passed on our recommendations to the Ben Hur production team. The society hopes that like all previous guidance and advice offered to them, the production team will take these recommendations on board."

marina.soteriou@ archant.co.uk

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