Animal activists in China say a now-famous magic trick with synchronised goldfish swimming for the Lunar New Year may have involved abuse including implanted magnets and urged state TV not to show it again.
Hundreds of millions of people watched the trick during a China Central Television (CCTV) gala - China's most watched broadcast of the year - on the January 30 eve of the Lunar New Year festival.
Goldfish are a symbol of wealth in China, but the image of six of them swimming in perfect sync under magician Fu Yandong's direction alarmed some Chinese, who worried that magnets were implanted in the fish or that they were controlled by electric current.
Fifty-three animal rights groups and other groups have sent a letter to CCTV asking not to let Fu perform the trick again during the broadcast of the Lantern Festival, which ends the Lunar New Year events.
"We should stand for non-violence, harmony and tolerance, but to my great surprise CCTV, the state broadcaster, tells the public we can use animals for entertainment. I think this is just wrong," said Qing Shaona, director of the Capital Animal Welfare Association.
Mr Fu would not reveal how the trick worked, but defended his actions, saying on his Twitter-like microblog that the goldfish were "living happily".
Like many Chinese, the animal rights groups want to know how the trick is done and have asked for a group of independent experts to examine the fish. The letter warns against the "potential torture or injury to animals resulting from audience members trying to imitate performances".
China has been working on a draft animal protection law, but it is unclear when it will be passed.
It was also not clear whether the magic trick was to be performed again, as the animal advocates feared.