Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Thousands Slashed From Arts Grants For Cruel Irish Animal Circuses

Posted: 15 January 2014. Updated: 27 June 2014

Leading animal protection organisations Animal Defenders International (ADI) and Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN) have welcomed news that the Arts Council of Ireland has reduced funds to controversial circuses using animals and renewed calls for the Council to cease all funding for animal circuses.

The Arts Council of Ireland has given grants of tens of thousands of Euros each year to Duffy’s Circus, Circus Gerbola and Fossett’s Circus, which are among the last few circuses in Ireland to continue controversial animal performances. Duffy’s has received funding since 2006, peaking at 75,000 Euros. This year, Arts Council funding for Duffy’s has been cut from 36,000 Euros in 2013 to 20,000 Euros for 2014 (1, 2). Fossett’s Circus has been awarded 15,000 Euros. The Council itself receives funding principally from the Irish Exchequer and National Lottery.

ADI Chief Executive Jan Creamer “We welcome the news that the Arts Council has reduced funding for Duffy’s and Fossett’s circuses, in line with increasing public rejection of circuses that continue to exploit animals, throughout Ireland and the rest of the world. ADI has exposed brutal beatings and shocking animal cruelty at circuses and we are particularly concerned that the Arts Council’s grant will be used to introduce sea lions, a wild and aquatic animal whose basic needs cannot possibly be met in a travelling circus. We urge the Arts Council to withdraw funding from all entertainment using animals and look forward to welcoming a ban on wild animals in circuses in Ireland in the near future.”

“The Arts Council of Ireland needs to support responsible art projects and not animal suffering”, says ARAN’s John Carmody. “The science and the facts are on our side that with the best intentions in the world, a circus with animals is unable to adequately provide for the animals in their care – and to this end ARAN would urge the Council to re-direct funding to circuses without animals.”

Despite rising public opposition to animal circuses, Duffy’s announced last week that its show will have “big animal content this year” and mentioned specifically a new sea lion act. Sea lions are highly intelligent and social animals who regularly dive hundreds of meters underwater to hunt in the wild, and have exceptional long-term memories. In the circus environment sea lions are unable to exhibit their natural behaviours, as acknowledged by the Swedish Animal Welfare Agency which has recommended to its Government that sea lions should no longer be permitted in circuses since their swimming needs cannot be provided for. ADI has witnessed grossly inadequate provision for sea lions at Chipperfield’s Circus in the UK.

ADI and ARAN have been working to stop circus suffering in Ireland since the launch of the Stop Circus Suffering in Ireland campaign in 2005, when the organizations published findings of their investigation into seven circuses which revealed animals suffering, severe confinement, inadequate diets and physical abuse. ADI and ARAN have engaged with government officials, politicians and local authorities to raise awareness about the suffering of circus animals and have secured many local bans (3).

ADI and ARAN have contacted the Arts Council many times urging it to cease funding of animal circuses and have protested outside its office in Dublin. ADI and ARAN have provided evidence to the Arts Council of the inherent suffering that animals in circuses inevitably endure and highlighted specific incidents of cruelty, such as that of a solitary elephant at Fossett’s who was chained by a front and a hind leg barely able to move, and inadequate housing of big cats at Duffy’s.

The Arts Council justifies funding animal circuses by referring to a motion that was passed in the European Parliament which states “it would be desirable for it to be recognised that the classical circus, including the presentation of animals, forms part of European Culture”. The European Parliament defines classical circus as one which “offers a variety of entertaining acts in the ring, often with animals”. This indicates that the motion applies to the classical circus with or without animal acts and so the Arts Council need not finance animal circuses in order to support classical circus acts.

In its latest communication to ADI and ARAN, the Arts Council states it “…in no way condones or supports the mistreatment of animals”. The Council has a “welfare framework” that states Five Freedoms “are employed to ensure that animals in human care do not endure any unnecessary pain or suffering”. However, it is not possible to provide all Five Freedoms satisfactorily for animals in circuses, especially the freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour and freedom from fear and distress, as our evidence has shown in many circuses.

ADI and ARAN are awaiting a further response from the Arts Council on their latest request to stop funding circuses using animals.


Fleur Dawes, Animal Defenders International
+44 (0)20 7630 3344 or +44 (0)7785 552548

John Carmody, Animal Rights Action Network
+353 (0)87-2391646

Interviews available on request
Film and photographs of animals in circuses are available from ADI

(1) RTE Radio 1 Liveline, 9 Jan interview with Joe Duffy of Duff’s Circus

(2) Arts Council of Ireland – who we’ve funded

(3) Circus bans in Ireland

(4) National restrictions on performing animals in travelling circuses, either wild or all animals, have been enacted in 22 countries, including Austria, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, Greece, Hungary, India, Israel, Poland, Portugal, Peru, Singapore, Sweden and Taiwan.

Animal Defenders International
With offices in London, Los Angeles and Bogota, ADI campaigns across the globe on animals in entertainment, providing technical advice to governments, securing progressive animal protection legislation, drafting regulations and rescuing animals in distress. ADI has a worldwide reputation for providing video and photographic evidence exposing the behind-the-scenes suffering in industry and supporting this evidence with scientific research on captive wildlife and transport. ADI rescues animals all over the world, educates the public on animals and environmental issues.

ARAN is Ireland’s national animal rights group, which campaigns peacefully against all forms of animal abuse, and works to promote a cruelty-free lifestyle.

© Animal Defenders International 2019