Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Stop Circus Suffering

Posted: 30 April 2007


In the past six months we have launched circus campaigns in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The new campaigns are underpinned by a report and a hard-hitting DVD exposing the findings of a two-and-a-half year investigation by ADI Field Officers, working deep undercover. There is also a range of leaflets, posters and banners to add to a vibrant and exciting campaign that is already notching up its first victories: publicity, seizures of animals, city bans, and legislation discussed. Read this campaign report and feel inspired, then please give us your support to do more.

ADI Sudamérica team reports:
Bolivia: ban and Ordinance follow launch

Stop Circus Suffering (SCS) Bolivia was launched with press conferences in April in the cities of Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. Martin Beltran, ADI representative in Bolivia; Enrique Mendizábal, President of EBA; and Liliana Tellez of ADDA spoke in the media and promoted the SCS sudamérica DVD, which features undercover footage in Bolivian circuses. Our shocking footage was screened on most major television channels. It was also covered by newspapers and radio and shown in bars and restaurants, accompanied by leaflet distribution. ADI, EBA (Education and Animal Wellbeing) and ADDA (Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Animals) have campaigned all over Bolivia, and this has borne fruit with an Ordinance that prohibits the use of all animals in circuses.

This success attracted more interest, and the campaign has steadily grown, with more animal protection groups and campaigners joining. EBA has promoted the Ordinance and explained why the circus is no place for animals. This included contacting Bolivia’s 800 scout leaders – the scouts form an important part of life for children in Bolivia.
Information was also distributed to the relevant authorities and prominent figures. Intense lobbying by the circus industry has been countered: Circo Abuhabda which appears in the SCS sudamérica DVD, attempted to collect signatures supporting the circus. They failed. Cochabamba had been selected for the launch and our first target for a municipality ban. ADDA and ADI turned up the heat, lobbying and staging demonstrations outside the Mayor’s office. The result: Cochabamba has now banned animal circuses.

Meanwhile, the Government is being lobbied for national legislation, putting Bolivia in the vanguard of the campaign for the prohibition of circuses with animals in South America.


Colombia: groups line up behind campaign, and everyone hears about Karla

ADI and the Mentes Verde Foundation (Foundation Green Minds) launched the SCS campaign with a series of public screenings of the DVD in different locations and with the backing of the Mayor of Bogota, universities, schools and animal protection groups such as Asociación Defensora de Animales y Ambiente (ADA), Protective Society of Animals of Colombia (SPAC), Foundation Friends of the Planet, Marco Verde, Paradise of the Pet, Defenzoores, Corporation Raya and F.A.U.N.A.

The media response was immediate and continued for months, thanks to committed campaigning by all. Coverage has included newscasters RCN, CityTv and News ONE; the series Travesia of channel 13 and Environmental Mission of Cablecentro, who have presented a special with tour video evidence from Colombia; and the newspapers El Tiempo, El Colombiano and El Mundo.

Tragic circus chimpanzee Karla, whom ADI Field Officers filmed being punched and beaten with a chain in Bogota, became the centre of attention, featuring in all the media.

Publicity has also been sustained by a series of carnivals organised by ADI and Mentes Verdes outside animal circuses in several cities – Bogota, Cali, Ibagué and Pereira.

The circus industry has fought back, threatening us and attempting legal action against ADI and Mentes Verdes. This included claims of violation of their right to work and damage to their “good name” – but the charges were thrown out by the legal authorities.

A major circus family – the Gascas – claimed in the media that the Stop Circus Suffering sudamérica DVD only contained footage from the UK and Europe! We responded by producing an entire DVD of footage from inside Gasca circuses only and released it to the media. This drew even more media attention to Gasca, as violence to elephants, apes and big cats was shown. Lawyer Amador Riaño has been responsible for the ADI and Mentes Verdes legal strategy and continues in his efforts to rescue Karla and to fight off the threats by Colombian circuses – ensuring that this campaign has not been silenced by the bullies.

The plight of Karla has united local campaigners in protests, with calls for her to be handed over to ADI. Poor Karla has come to symbolise the suffering of all circus animals in Colombia.

Our team are working with the relevant Government Department to press for national legislation to prohibit the use of animals in circuses throughout Colombia. Meanwhile, Karla, Bobby and Chita wait in hope.

Ecuador: lions seized

Brutal footage was obtained during ADI’s undercover investigations in Ecuador – a thug beating dogs with a metal bar; Indiano the lion living in a tiny cage, being kicked; goats and a bull being whipped; a donkey being kicked. The footage was unveiled at a press conference in Quito with our campaign partners, Proteccion Animal Ecuador (PAE).

Considerable media coverage was achieved and used as a launch pad for a campaign for a national ban on the use of animals in circuses. We are presently working with biologists at the relevant ministry, looking for mechanisms on which to base this prohibition.

Since the campaign launch, different circuses have been inspected, revealing animals in awful conditions, irregularities in documentation and inadequate facilities. As a result, the authorities seized 12 lions from a circus in Tulcán. To date, three of the lions have been returned to the circus, with the fate of the remaining nine lions still in limbo. The animals are being held in the facilities of the ecological police, undergoing veterinary examinations to establish their age, state of health/condition and characteristics. We are pressing for the animals to be handed over. It would be tragic for them to be at the gates of freedom, only to be taken back to the circus.

Peru: ban in Lima and draft national legislation tabled

The campaign in Peru has been spearheaded by ADI sudamérica Campaigns Coordinator Juan Pablo Olmos and Jenny Mishty of Acción Por Derechos de los Animales (APDA), and now has the backing of the Peruvian animal protection groups Animazul, Grupo Caridad, Quimiranka, Animanaturalis and Unidos por los Animales UPA.

Extensive television coverage resulted, including: America Television, Pan-American Television, ATV, Channel 2 and Peru TV, accompanied by features in the major newspapers and magazines, including El Comercio, La República, Peru 21 and El Trome. During the week of our launch, Kiara, a nine-month-old lioness, escaped from an itinerant circus in an urban area of Lima. This drew attention to the risks we had cited in our report and DVD, when circuses travel with these animals in temporary cages. Suddenly, our point became starkly real, with a lioness loose in the streets in which children play. The Ecological Police for INRENA (the National Institute of Natural Resources) captured Kiara and placed her in a zoo, where it was discovered that – even at less than a year old – this poor lioness bore scars, was malnourished, and her claws had been removed from her front paws. ADI has offered to take the lioness, rather than have her returned to the circus. There was a brief legal tug of war, but sadly, INRENA could not find a legal avenue to permanently seize Kiara. Together with local organisations, a picket in front of the INRENA called for Kiara to be sent to a sanctuary, but she was returned to the circus. Unless we can secure the prohibition of animal circuses in Peru, a lifetime of deprivation and misery awaits her at the hands of those who have already removed her claws. A sad fate for the lioness who almost got away.

In July, two very old lions were delivered to INRENA by the Circo Africa de Fieras in Lima, Peru, undernourished and in extremely poor health. A sad scene, graphically highlighting the plight of circus animals. The animals were euthanised after an examination revealed anaemia, emaciation, dermatitis, inflamed kidneys and pancreas, and decaying teeth. INRENA has announced that it plans to seize seven tigers from the same circus for irregularities in documentation. If this happens, ADI will offer to take the animals.

The surge in public awareness following the campaign has seen four municipalities of Lima – San Miguel, Villa El Salvador, Commas and El Agustino – ban animal circuses at the height of the capital’s circus season. In August the Municipal Council of Magdalena del Mar unanimously approved an Ordinance that prohibits circuses with animals with penalties of a $550 fine and closure of the circus.

National legislation to prohibit the use of animals in circuses is being promoted by Congressman Jorge Urquizo, a member of the Nationalistic Party of Peru. We expect this to be debated in Congress in the coming months. The fate of poor Kiara is a reminder that legislation is the real solution to the abuse of these animals.


We want to say “thank you” to all the campaigners of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru who have joined forces to help drive this campaign forward. Animal protection groups in four countries have united to help stop circus suffering.
Special thanks to Anibal Vallejo and Nora Vallejo, who have kept Karla in the public eye, to Manuel Lancheros, who is helping to coordinate the Colombian campaign, and to Marco Ardila, who is working on the protection law for animals in Colombia. Jenny Mishty, Malenic Tenorio and Rocio Peñafiel have been responsible for the amazing campaign in Peru, and Lorena de Sanchez and Tasquin Meza have put Stop Circus Suffering on the map in Ecuador. Martin Beltran has been representing ADI in Bolivia and fought hard for the Cochabamba ban. Liliana Tellez and Enrique Mendizabal have been vital to the campaign in Bolivia. Of course, special thanks goes to our original campaign partners, Mentes Verdes Foundation Colombia, ADDA Bolivia, EBA Bolivia, PAE Ecuador and APDA Peru, with whom we launched these campaigns. And let’s not forget where all of this started, with the ADI Field Officers quietly gathering the evidence.

Our sincere thanks to the Persula Foundation for supporting these launches and this important campaign.

Global Round-Up

UK awaits circus regulations

The report of the Academic Panel of Defra’s Circus Working Group is still awaited (their recommendations will inform the minister’s regulations). ADI submitted a substantial dossier of scientific papers but were concerned that evidence that had been accepted in court was not considered. There are fears that the remit of this call for evidence was so narrow that it may not be possible to provide proper guidance to the minister. Furthermore, the academic panel of three circus industry nominees and three animal welfare nominees may become deadlocked.

Ireland – the naked truth

Our campaign with Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN) is in full swing, with our latest ‘The Naked Truth – Circuses Are Cruel To Animals’ tour crossing the country. We are also organising local campaign meetings and building up a dedicated nationwide lobbying campaign to finally see an end to the use of all animals in Irish circuses. Recently, Fingal Council have backed a motion to introduce measures to prohibit wild animal acts with circuses. Our thanks to Clare Daly who introduced the motion.

Netherlands – “no” to self regulation

In September 2006 Winschoten was the first Dutch municipality to ban circuses with wild animals. Others await the conclusion of a lawsuit by the circus industry against Winschoten over whether local government has the power to impose such a ban on welfare grounds or whether this is the prerogative of national government. In March the government responded to the circus association’s proposals on self-regulation: "On the basis of this document we have no confidence in the self regulatory capabilities of your association." After this, Wild Animals Out of the Tent asked municipalities to write to the Minister and demand a national ban on wild animals in circuses. Many did so, including Amsterdam, and politicians asked questions in Parliament. The minister has now agreed to order a study into the welfare of animals in circuses, a significant step forward.

Greece – More bans

In March, animal circus bans were secured in Kalamata and Serres. Circo Medrano defied the ban in Serres, but protests ensured that the police arrested two circus workers. They moved to Corfu, where lobbying blocked a licence to perform. The circus ignored this, so the police arrested the manager, imposed a fine and halted the performances. Greece clocked up its 27th Municipality ban in Aridea Pellas in June. On a national level, Evgenia Mataragaka of the Greek Animal Welfare Fund has been discussing the issue with the Ministry and Members of Parliament. ADI continues to supply information, research and essential video evidence to fuel this campaign.

Taiwan – wild animal ban

In June, Taiwan banned the import of wildlife for circuses with an amendment to the Wildlife Conservation Act. The amendment was sponsored by legislator Tien Chiu-chin, who stated that ”Circuses do not need animals to be fun and successful”, and added that ”Most importantly, by exposing our children to wild animals through circus acts, we are setting an incorrect example of how humans should interact with animals”. Campaigners in Taiwan used ADI video and information in the campaign – an example of the ripples we can send around the world, when we all work together.

Portugal – code called for

Animals in circuses are included in a call for a broad Portuguese Animal Protection Code, placed before Parliament, using evidence from ADI.

U.S.A. – Minneapolis considers ban

The Minneapolis City Council will vote soon on whether to ban circuses with wild animals following a local campaign. Council member Ralph Remington said of circus animals, ”It is cruel and inhumane to cage them up and force them to do unnatural tricks under the threat of pain and punishment.”

The Court case against Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus (a.k.a. Feld Entertainment, Inc.) took a step forward in August, when Judge Emmet Sullivan dismissed the defendants’ attempt to file a counterclaim against the plaintiffs, scolding the circus for "wasting a considerable amount of time and resources of the Court by engaging in dilatory delay tactics over several years." The Court had previously ruled – and has now reiterated – that the circus had repeatedly withheld critical evidence, in violation of a Court order. All further discovery is now ordered to be completed by the end 2007, and a trial date is expected soon.

In 2000, the Fund for Animals, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Animal Welfare Institute and the Animal Protection Institute, along with one (later three) former Ringling Brothers employee(s), filed a lawsuit alleging that Ringling Brothers violates the federal Endangered Species Act in its treatment of Asian elephants. Eyewitness accounts claim various abuses.

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