Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

ADI circus whistleblower campaign hits Italy and Spain

Posted: 30 October 2013. Updated: 30 October 2013

When Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus embarked on their first European tour in 2009, ADI was there to meet them.

Our worldwide investigations of animal circuses reveal that a huge number of circus workers have witnessed shocking scenes - like those we have caught on film. We used the Ringlings’ European tour as a platform for a new whistleblower campaign, using witnesses (both circus workers and visitors) to speak out against animal suffering.

We stormed a high profile media trail across Europe with new campaign materials and events to coincide with Ringlings’ arrival in each town.

Our field officers had been to New York to check out the Ringlings’ show before it headed to Italy - although we later confirmed that animals were to be rented in Italy (undermining the Ringlings’ claim that their animal acts are special).

Next, an ex-circus employee was called in to make a special appeal for circus workers to report cruelty. Tom Rider had worked for Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, Carson and Barnes, and Circus Barelli. In 2000 he travelled by boat from the US to Spain with a Chipperfield Enterprises elephant act from Ringlings. He then travelled to Holland, Germany and France.

Using footage from all of these circuses and suppliers, ADI prepared a new video “Don’t look the other way, speak out circus suffering", featuring Tom. Leaflets, posters and videos were produced in English, Spanish and Italian.


As Ringlings swept into town, the campaign was unveiled in Milan with a press conference screening the video and addressed by representatives of ADI and Agire Ora, and Tom Rider. A huge media turnout secured national TV and print coverage. That evening we demonstrated outside the circus and distributed our leaflets. Since the launch ADI and AgireOra have continued the campaign, focusing on all circuses.


By the time Ringlings reached Spain they had already cancelled the German leg of their tour. We greeted their first date in Seville with a press conference hosted by the Seville Green Party, and addressed by representatives of ADI, AnimaNaturalis, the Seville Green Party, Colectivo Andaluz contra el Maltrato animal (CACMA) and Tom Rider.

The event was packed with journalists, and footage of the conference was broadcast nationally all day. In the evening, ADI and AnimaNaturalis held a successful demonstration at the circus and handed out hundreds of leaflets.

We remained in the media whenever the circus moved to a new location. With the tour clearly starting to crumble Ringlings cancelled the shows in Valencia - Spain’s second biggest city.

In Madrid, Ringlings were greeted by an ADI event at the City Council hosted by Councillor Raquel Lopez from the United Left Party. The location was selected as part of a drive to secure a city-wide ban on animal circuses. We achieved huge coverage - once again the event was screened all day on national television - and followed this with an ADI/AnimaNaturalis demonstration outside Ringlings.

Even as the tour concluded, we continued to get coverage for the campaign, with Tom appearing on various talk shows in Spain.

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