1. ITV Report

Live owls banned from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child after one escapes

Live owls have been banned from the new Harry Potter play after one escaped into the audience.

Barn owls will no longer feature in the play Credit: PA

It happened during Tuesday’s preview of part one, when an owl escaped into the auditorium instead of returning to its handler at the Palace Theatre in the West End.

A sign at the theatre on Thursday for a screening of part two of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child informed the audience "there are no real birds featured in the production".

Part one of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was shown to an audience for the first time on Tuesday Credit: PA

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.

– Statement from the producers
The play officially opens on July 30 Credit: PA

Animal charity Peta has welcomed the move, saying it is 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.

– Peta spokesperson