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Animal Defenders International

Shocking new ADI cruelty exposé shames UK circus industry

Posted: 25 March 2011. Updated: 13 February 2014

It’s a hard knock life being a circus animal - Government told “it’s time for a ban"

Animal Defenders International has released shocking footage from behind the scenes at the winter quarters of Bobby Roberts Super Circus, which graphically shows violence and confinement of circus animals.

ADI secured footage over a three and a half week period from a camera observing activity in a barn where the animals are kept when not touring, which shows a staggeringly high level of violence and serious animal husbandry flaws. Incidents included Annie (Anne), an elderly, severely arthritic 57 year old elephant being hit with a metal pitchfork and kicked around the face and body 48 times over the period of observation by workers, who are also seen beating and spitting on a camel and beating miniature ponies and horses on numerous occasions.

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Chained

The disturbing footage also shows Annie constantly chained for the entire period of filming by her front and arthritic back leg with only enough room to take one step forward or backwards. Her chains were only changed to different legs twice, ADI believes this will clearly cause her pain and discomfort. It was noted that the feeding regime was poor.

What makes this case all the more disturbing is that the circus proprietor Bobby Roberts has claimed publicly to take good care of Annie as ‘she is a family pet’ and ‘part of the family’.

Having collected the damning evidence, ADI is discussing the potential for legal action with its lawyers. The worker has left the premises during the night so ADI requests that if Bobby Roberts knows the name of the worker he needs to provide that so that justice can be done.

Animal Defenders International believes that this new evidence provides Government with only one option – a total ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.

Self-regulation is not an option

Jan Creamer, ADI’s Chief Executive said: “Annie’s tragic story symbolizes the plight of circus animals and is a shocking indictment of the circus industry at a key time as government considers a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses. We have presented successive governments with extensive evidence from our undercover investigations over the years into UK circuses that proves conclusively that routine violence and deprivation is endemic within the industry.

“To Lord Henley, the Minister responsible, we say enough is enough. It is now time for him to act decisively to stop this appalling suffering. It is time for him to enact a total ban once and for all.”

Government’s own public consultation in March 2010 found that an overwhelming 94.5% of the public want to see a ban on wild animals in circuses and over 170 MPs have now signed Early Day Motion 403 calling on the Government to ban wild animal acts. A recent parliamentary poll conducted by ADI found that 63% of MPs would like to see a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses and only 14% disagreed.

ADI has now exposed the shocking abuse of animals in UK circuses from several random undercover investigations over the last fifteen years. Only recently, in 2009, the beating of elephants at the Great British Circus was exposed and now in 2011 Bobby Roberts Super Circus shows that this is a way of life at the circus. A clear pattern has been proven and this time the government needs to act.

Tim Phillips, ADI’s Campaigns Director said: “The release of this footage stops any attempt by UK government to ignore the will of the public. It is clear that self-regulation is not an option in this industry.

“Once again, we have exposed that cruelty and deprivation is rife within the circus industry. We have also established that self regulation is not a viable option as the government would be asking circuses like Bobby Roberts or the Great British Circus to regulate themselves. That would be a farce, and the animals will continue to suffer abuse."

Circus industry told: “Enough is Enough

Jan said: “I have no doubt that it will be claimed that this is an ‘exception’ and/or that the owner was not aware of the abuse, but the evidence is now conclusive. Each time we expose the cruelty, the circuses give a similar range of excuses.

“ADI has been concerned for Annie’s welfare for many years and have followed her tragic plight. Poor Annie has been with the circus for over 50 years since she was baby, having been caught in the wild and torn from her family. Elephants are social and extremely intelligent so this has been a living hell for her. At last we have managed to expose this circus operation for the cruel farce that it is and never again can Roberts preach about animal welfare and how well his animals are cared for.”

Tim concluded: “Our latest investigation shows how animals like elephants suffer in the travelling circus. In the name of entertainment they are beaten, jabbed with hooks and hit with pitchforks, chained up for hours every day, and pushed into metal boxes each week where they remain for hours on end whilst the circus moves to another site. And when they are meant to be resting in their winter quarters the abuse and cruelty continues.

“The public wants to see a ban, Parliament wants a ban, animal protection groups want a ban. A ban is the only way to put an end, once and for all, to this deplorable violence and deprivation, and government must act now.”

The Bobby Roberts Super Circus began its UK tour on the 24 March. Potential visitors are being asked to vote with their feet and stay away.

ADI is consulting with its lawyers to see what the potential is for legal action.

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