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Jamie Lloyd hits back at PETA accusations of goldfish abuse in Richard III

The Trafalgar Transformed director has commented on a letter sent by the organisation

Jamie Lloyd's Richard III at Trafalgar Studios
© Marc Brenner

Director Jamie Lloyd has responded to accusations made by the animal rights charity PETA that claim a goldfish used in his production of Richard III starring Martin Freeman, was "ground up with the gravel and pushed up against the sides of the tank".

A letter was circulated by Kirsty Henderson, Campaign Coordinator at PETA, that said:

"Dear Mr Lloyd,

I'm contacting you from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) UK – one of the largest animal rights groups in the country – because a concerned member of the public informed us that while she had been sitting in the front row at a performance of Richard III, it appeared to her that the goldfish used in the production was "ground up with the gravel and pushed up against the sides of the tank" while a cast member submerged himself in the tank and "thrashed around wildly". The abuse of animals is not entertainment, and a theatre production is really not a suitable environment for fish or any other animals. With this in mind, I would like to ask you to stop using live goldfish in the production..."

The letter went on to explain how experts report that fish are intelligent animals who should not be confined to a tank and forced to endure a person thrashing around in the water. The campaigner requests that Lloyd no longer uses the fish in future performances.

Controversy: Martin Freeman as Richard III

UPDATE: Jamie Lloyd Productions have responded with the following statement:

"Director Jamie Lloyd has ensured that the safety and welfare of the goldfish in Richard III at Trafalgar Studios is a top priority. The goldfish were provided by a reputable dealer, who were consulted on the best way to look after them during the production's run to ensure no distress was caused to the fish. We use eight goldfish in total, which are rotated in pairs and these are very well looked after by our Company Manager, following strict guidelines and under appropriate conditions, to ensure their welfare. We have also spoken to the RSPCA, who have supported the systems we have in place to safeguard their well-being. No fish have been harmed or killed in this production.

We would like to reassure all audience members and the general public that we take the protection of animals and their use within theatrical productions very seriously, and have gone through all the required procedures to ensure that the goldfish remain happy and healthy throughout the run, and that they enjoy a future life beyond the show.

Despite following these procedures rigorously, out of respect and support of PETA's work, and on their request, Jamie Lloyd has decided to withdraw the use of all fish from all forthcoming performances of Richard III."

Lloyd added: "As a strict vegan, I have ensured that the safety and welfare of the goldfish in Richard III has been a top priority. They are all growing and flourishing."

ANOTHER UPDATE: PETA have given the following statement in response:

"We're giving Jamie a standing ovation and have sent him some lovely vegan chocolates to thank him for his swift and compassionate action regarding the little fish on the set of Richard III. Goldfish, like all living beings, are not props, and they have no interest in being on stage or being periodically frightened by an inexplicable event. We're delighted that Richard III will continue with the limelight now solely on the talented and willing actors in the production, and we wish them and Jamie a great run."

Have you seen the production? What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.