Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

The show sadly goes on for ex-Ringling big cats in Europe.

Posted: 16 October 2017. Updated: 21 December 2017


Former Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus big cat trainer Alexander Lacey is back perfoming in Europe following his controversial departure from the US last month. Footage released today by Animal Defenders International shows the British-born trainer with his lions and tigers at the “Grande Fête Lilloise du Cirque” as the event opened in Lille, France over the weekend and where Lacey will be performing until 12 November before moving to Germany.

Lacey left the United States last month under a cloud following the closure of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus and leaving a tiger called Suzy shot dead in Georgia after the animal escaped without anyone realising.

The new footage from ADI shows an archaic circus performance and the animals forced to live in mobile cages on the backs of trucks, despite a claim when justifying the export of the tigers to Europe that they were “for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species.”

Twelve of Alexander Lacey’s fourteen big cats – seven tigers and five lions – perform in the 8-minute show which opens with the animals sat on stools, some in a ‘begging’ position. During the act, the big cats jump from stool to stool and over one another, snarling and swiping at the trainer on cue. One by one they leave the ring until just one remains, a male lion, with whom Lacey gives the obligatory circus big cat kiss.

The big cats are housed in a series of cages, each with access to a small exercise area, sited on gravel and containing just a ball, the animals’ only enrichment. During ADI’s observations animals remained in their cages, with lions, tigers and the leopard documented pacing back and forth. These repetitive, abnormal movements known as stereotypic behaviour are commonly seen in circus animals but never in the wild.

Alexander Lacey had previously toured Britain and Europe with his big cats before touring the United States with Ringling Bros. Circus before it closed down in May. In June, an application from the circus’ parent company Feld Entertainment to export his eight tigers to Germany “for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species” was published by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for public comment. Despite opposition from ADI and members of the public, the application was approved on 14 August,

A week before the big cats left for Europe one of Lacey’s tigers was shot dead by police in Georgia after escaping during a stop en route to Tennessee on 6 September. Spotted on the interstate, tiger Suzy entered a residential area and, as stated by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, after she “became aggressive toward pets in the area, it was deemed necessary for public safety to put it down”. Feld Entertainment was unaware that the tiger was missing until they had reached their destination, indicating the big cats were not checked during their journey.

Prior to their departure from Memphis International Airport on 12 September, the fourteen big cats were holed up in Arkansas, a neighboring state. According to a recent article in the Washington Post, the big cats should have left the country on 6 September on a Fedex flight to Cologne but “Fish and Wildlife inspectors at the airport would not allow the cats on the plane, saying their enclosures needed fortifying “to prevent escape” while airborne.”

Over the years, ADI has caught on film a catalogue of abuse at circuses owned by Lacey’s father Martin Lacey Sr. including tigers hit with whips and sticks by Martin Lacey Sr and his daughter Natasha Lacey; elephants abused, punched, and hit with brooms and sticks by their presenter and groom – Martin Lacey Sr told Members of the British Parliament that the elephants were not chained, yet ADI video evidence showed they were chained daily for up to 11 hours; lions and tigers confined in transporters 27 hours for a journey time of 3 hours 25 minutes; Alexander Lacey’s “beastman” was filming losing his temper, screaming at and hitting tigers, and also hitting a lioness in the mouth with a metal bar; Alexander Lacey was filmed jabbing a big cat and concealing a seriously injured lioness from inspectors.

Alexander Lacey is set to return to Germany, where he will present his act at the Heilbronner Weihnacts circus from 20 December until 7 January.

Given the constant travel and their temporary nature, circuses cannot provide animals with adequate facilities to keep them physically or psychologically healthy. Welfare is always compromised.

Take action!

  • In you live in the US, urge your Representative to support TEAPSPA, a bill to ban traveling wild animal acts nationwide.

© Animal Defenders International 2018