Alcohol has been removed from the menu of a pop-up bar in London which is hosting real-life owls after thousands of people raised concerns about the welfare of the birds.
More than 64,000 people had applied for tickets to see the owls while sipping a cocktail, however, the event has caused outrage among some animal lovers, including the owl sanctuary for which the bar was raising money.
A petition against the event has gained more than 17,000 signatures and the organisers have now bowed to the concerns of animal welfare groups such as Peta, and will no longer serve alcoholic drinks at Annie the Owl.
The novelty bar will be hosted in London for just a week and features five owls named Annie, Darwin, Ruby, Cinders, Winston and Hootie - all handled by trained falconers. Organisers said they believe people registered for the event “because they love owls and not because of the alcohol”.
“The organisers of Annie the Owl would like to assure that during the operating hours of the sit-down event, all possible measures are being taken to safeguard the owls’ welfare,” organisers added.
They pointed out the pop-up will be in a large empty space over three floors rather than a traditional pub or bar, which is “ample space for the birds to exhibit normal behaviour under the careful watch and protection of their respective falconers.”
“The organisers would also like to make it clear that these birds have been to much larger events before such as TV shows, photo shootings, weddings, carnival and country fairs and other public events where over 40,000 people walked by the owls without any negative impact to their health or well-being. By contrast the organizers have decided to only issue 100-120 tickets per night in order to ensure the birds’ well-being,” said one of the event organisers, Seb Lyall.
Organisers said they are also working with Westminster Council and animal health inspectors to ensure the bird’s welfare.
Money raised from the event will now go to a new charity after the Barn Owl Sanctuary in Gloucestershire said it no longer wished to be associated with the event. The chosen charity will remain unnamed “due to their limited resources to manage media and skeptics” which organisers believe prompted the Barn Owl trust to withdraw support.