London's first pop-up 'owl bar' responds to accusations of cruelty
Annie the Owl is coming to London. Or maybe she's not.
Originally the concept seemed pretty cool. A pop-up "owl bar," in a secret Soho location for only seven days, and the chance to enjoy cocktails while petting one of six live owls.
But what about the owls? What pleasure do they get out of the experience? Are they at risk of harm if the event goes ahead?
To date over 25,000 people have signed a Change.org petition, set up by owl lover Sarah Stafford, calling on Westminster Council to prevent Annie the Owl bar from going ahead.
The owls have been trained to be around people and the organisers of the event insist they have taken all appropriate measures to ensure their welfare. However animal rights campaigners, experienced falconers, owl lovers and raptor experts are accusing them of cruelty.
In response to concerns that the bar-goers would be drinking alcohol the organisers issued a press release, which included the following statement:
"After some concerns from animal welfare groups regarding the provision of TWO alcoholic cocktails per person at Annie the Owl, the organisers have decided to no longer serve alcoholic drinks/cocktails during the event. The organisers believe that 64,000 people (and +125,000 tickets applied for) have registered for the event because they love owls and not because of the alcohol.
"The organisers are seeking to raise funds for owls sanctuaries through a special event that invites people to relax, enjoy smoothies, and learn about owls in a unique setting."
However this hasn't gone far enough to allay concerns. "Five owls working for 6 hours over 7 nights for public entertainment and money making is downright unfair and cruel," said Stafford in a statement posted on her petition page. She has urged the thousands of people who have entered the ballot for Annie the Owl tickets to reconsider and "go and see them in a reputable centre, where they are as close to their natural environment as possible, well cared for [and] unstressed."
Annie the Owl organisers insist that "the welfare of the birds is our biggest priority" and say they "are working with professionals to make sure of that."
Annie the Owl bar is scheduled to take place between March 19 and March 25, opening from 8:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. every evening. Unless, of course, Westminster Council decides to deny them permission to trade.