Fury over Britney bid to star with cheetahs

Britney Spears today came under fire from animal rights activists after it was disclosed she plans to use four live cheetahs on stage.

Britney Spears today came under fire from animal rights activists after it was disclosed she plans to use four live cheetahs on stage.

The 19-year-old pop star is planning to have the big cats on stage with her as she performs at the MTV Video Music Awards in New York tomorrow night.

But today American campaign group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) condemned the act and called on Spears to remove the animals from the show.

Spears is attempting to upstage her performance last year at the awards show when she stripped down to her underwear.

This year, she is expected to sing her single Slave 4 U, whose words include: ‘‘I’m a slave for you. I really wanna do what you want me to.’’

PETA activist Dan Matthews wrote to Spears and said: ‘‘We hope you’ll open your heart to the plight of captive wild animals caged and forced to tolerate bright lights, crowds and frightening levels of noise.

‘‘Cheetahs used in showbusiness are often trained through intimidation and with such devices as electric shock prods and sticks.

‘‘Whippings, beatings and starvation are common methods used to break the spirit of free-roaming animals.’’

A spokesman for the singer refused to comment on the request and told an New York daily: ‘‘We’re not allowed to disclose any information about her appearance.’’

The controversy came as a preview of a scene from Spears’ upcoming film What Are Friends For has emerged on unofficial website WorldofBritney.com and shows a 10-second shot of the singer and her co-star Justin Long stripping off their tops.

The film, the singer’s first, will be released in America in February 2002, and also stars Dan Aykroyd and Kim Cattrall.

The scene is in spite of Spears’ self-professed status as a virgin, which she recently said was ‘‘difficult’’.

Last week she denied claims she had become engaged to boyfriend Justin Timberlake, of boy band NSync.

A series of British names have been nominated for awards at the MTV ceremony, including Fatboy Slim, who heads the field with nine nominations.

Robbie Williams, Coldplay and David Gray are also hopefuls for one of the awards being presented at the three-hour show, which will include performances from Jennifer Lopez, U2 and NSync.

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