Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Demonstration organised in Brasilia against Court decision to return animals seized from “Le Cirque”

Posted: 25 February 2011. Updated: 15 January 2014

On the 3rd of February 2011, Judge João Timóteo de Oliveira from the Court of Justice of the Federal District of Brasilia decided to declare circus Le Cirque innocent from any crimes of mistreatment against their animals, and ordered that they should be returned to them.

All of the animals had been confiscated by the Brazilian Federal Government in 2008 (one African elephant, four Indian elephants, one hippopotamus, two chimpanzees, ten ponies, two camels, two giraffes, two llamas, a white rhino and a zebra.) Following the seizure, Le Cirque was condemned in Court by Judge Esdras Neves to pay 250 000 Reais (about £90 000) to organisations protecting the environment and its legal representative George Stevanovich was condemned to more than three years of imprisonment.

Judge João Timóteo de Oliveira’s decision to overturn the previous judgment in appeal is a huge blow for the animals who were freed from the miserable life they were leading in Le Cirque, as well as a blow for the protection of circus animals in Brazil in general.

Paradoxically, the decision justifies aggression against sentient beings and the barbaric treatment of animals as the normal life for animals in circus shows, and acceptable on the ground that this is “what circuses do.” The judge acknowledges the existence of reports from veterinarians, government officials and NGOs providing a wealth of evidence of injuries, malnutrition, parasitic diseases, impairment of vital organs, anemia, use of electric instruments against the animals, claws ripped out and life in areas where it impossible to move minimum of the animals.

It is particularly alarming that the decision of Judge João Timóteo de Oliveira questions the Brazilian law of environmental crimes in its entirety, calling it a “legal heresy", and Article 32, which qualify the mistreatment of animals as a crime an “aberration."

He also qualifies the law as being “wildly repressive” and justifies practices harmful to sentient beings. We believe that the court’s legal interpretation of the law is wrong and based on an outdated philosophy on animals. While Brazil and the rest of the world are moving towards a greater understanding of the animal’s behaviour and complexity, and a greater recognition of their dignity, the Federal Court adopts a very backward stance and chooses to trivialise animal suffering.

If not reversed, this decision risks creating a dangerous precedent for animal protection in Brazil, and we strongly oppose it. The animals ceased from Le Cirque cannot return to their life of misery and suffering. In association with ProAnima, (a Brasilia-based animal protection association), Animal Defenders International calls on everyone concerned with the judge’s decision and animal protection to take part in a peaceful protest in front of the Court of Justice at the Eixo Monumental, at 1pm this Friday 25 February.

© Animal Defenders International 2019