WASHINGTON - ANIMAL rights activists criticised South Korea for placing goldfish in harm's way as part of elaborate security measures for the Group of 20 summit opening on Thursday.

South Korean authorities said that, in addition to deploying thousands of armed police, they would use six goldfish which would be placed in the restrooms' water supply to ensure purity.

US-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) countered Wednesday that goldfish suffer pain in much the same way as dogs and cats.

'Protecting world leaders is very serious, but so is protecting animals who feel pain just as people do,' said Peta's executive vice president, Tracy Reiman.

'There are a variety of modern scientific methods that would better protect world leaders and keep fish from enduring agonising deaths from contaminated water,' she wrote in a letter to South Korean authorities.

PR manager Oh Su Young of the convention centre earlier told AFP that the fish 'symbolise an eco-friendly water policy' with used water recycled for the restrooms.

Activists slam goldfish security