CCTV (China Central Television) has received a letter from 53 animal charities and other NGOs requesting that they cancel a performance by magician Fu Yandong, in which he 'magically' controls goldfish.
Under his influence, the goldfish swim in formation and perform a variety of carefully choreographed movements.
The show, called 'nian nian you yu' meaning 'having a surplus every year' wowed spectators at the 'Spring Festival Gala of the Rabbit Year' which was aired on CCTV on February 2.
Fu told 'The Ghangzhou Daily' that he would be repeating the act on CCTV’s 'Lantern Festival Gala' which is due to be shown on February 17, prompting the angry response of a number of animal organisations.
The act itself brings to mind several videos released showing fish moving in formation in which it may be likely that magnets were implanted. There has been speculation that the fish have been trained by electroshock.
However, Fu has defended himself against claims of animal cruelty and abuse and insists that his act is purely magic, and he cannot reveal his methods because of the restrictions imposed by the magicians’ guild.
He goes on to say that his methods involve sophisticated technology.
Many of the co-signers of the letter are concerned that viewing such tricks will encourage others to imitate them, causing harm to the animals involved.
The letter reads: "Before the Animal Protection Law is complete and comprehensive, any influential TV programmes should not allow animal shows, to avoid the potential torture or injury to animals resulting from audience members trying to imitate performances."
They further went on to say that the show should not be aired unless thoroughly vetted by third-party animal rights followers to ensure that the animals were not being caused to suffer for entertainment. They also add that CCTV should apologise to the public should any wrong-doing be veiled.
In response to the letter, Chen Linchun, General Director of the 'Spring Festival Gala’' said that the 'Lantern Festival Gala' would not feature any animal-related shows and that included Fu’s goldfish act.
Fu, also in response, has said he would be willing to involve the animal rights groups in examining his treatment of the fish and his training of them. His manager stipulates that Fu’s methods are harmless, and the pair plan to release an internet message to warn people not to mimic the performance.
There is no specific evidence of cruelty in the act, and Fu claims that he has had the goldfish since he was a boy and that they are 'living happily'.
Liu Huiyi, a member of one of the co-authoring NGOs, has said that she wishes to see animal experts involved during the act for safety reasons.