Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Wildlife experts speak out against circus suffering in Britain

Posted: 18 August 2014

Sky News Sunrise reports David Cameron’s commitment to ban “outdated practice” ahead of circus bill launch

A leading wildlife vet and a UNEP conservation ambassador have spoken out against the “degrading and incredibly damaging” use of wild animals in British circuses, following the release of footage by Animal Defenders International (ADI) which shows big cats pacing up and down the small cages of their beastwagon at one of the two remaining circuses to perform with such acts in Britain.

Author, award-winning conservationist and former MEP Stanley Johnson said, “I am deeply saddened that big cats and other wild animals are continuing to suffer in British circuses. I have worked to conserve and protect wildlife for many years, and it is of grave concern that efforts to safeguard these same species in the wild is being undermined by those who continue to use them for cheap tricks, despite the opposition. It’s degrading and incredibly damaging. I fully support Animal Defenders International’s campaign to stop circus suffering and hope that we can pass a ban on wild animals in circuses before the General Election.”

The footage was filmed by ADI at Peter Jolly’s Circus which has the only big cat act in Britain, featuring lions and tigers presented and trained by Thomas Chipperfield, a relative of the notorious Mary Chipperfield. The animals can be seen performing one of a range of abnormal, repetitive ‘stereotypic’ behaviours, which indicates compromised welfare and suffering. Stereotypic behaviour is not seen in the wild, but is commonly observed in circuses.

Simon JR Adams BSc BVMS MRCVS Zoo and Wildlife Veterinary Advisor said, “Stereotypic repetitive behaviour is a sign of mental disease, and is well recognised as an indicator of poor standards of animal welfare, where the enclosure is either too small or barren to fulfil the animal’s natural behavioural needs. This is a prime reason why the limited space available in a travelling circus is unsuitable to big cats, as patrolling their large territories in the wild is an essential behavioural drive, thwarted by the limited confines of circus accommodation, no matter how hard the circus may try to accommodate them.”

Simon Adams stressed, “It may be nice for the public to see them, but they should understand that it is not nice for the poor big cats!”

In addition to the stereotypical behaviour observed at the circus, ADI also documented prey animals in view of predators – llamas tethered in front of the big cats; solitary herd animals – an ankole, the oldest of the animals, and a camel; animals kept in unnatural social groups; and animals tethered or in small stalls.

In the circus ring, the big cats are made to sit on their hind legs and jump between podiums, a tiger sits upright on a glitter ball and a lion ‘kisses’ Chipperfield. Other animals forced to perform include a fox made to ‘ride’ on the back of a donkey, and a ‘parade’ featuring the ankole, camel and zebra. During the show interval, children are invited to ride on the camel and photo opportunities provided with the snakes.

The continued use of wild animals is widely opposed, and their unpopularity has seen the number of circuses with such acts plummet over the last 15 years to just two – Peter Jolly’s Circus and Circus Mondao. Both are required to be licensed by Government, a temporary measure brought in last year ahead of a ban and opposed by ADI which has documented how such regulations are unable to protect the animals. The circuses are using the licensing system and inspections they receive to reassure the public and allay concerns, however despite repeatedly stating they are inspected seven times a year, Defra Minister George Eustice stated on 8 July that the Government has only inspected Circus Mondao and Peter Jolly’s Circus once and twice respectively this year and three and four times respectively in 2013.

The brutal violence and constant chaining of Anne the elephant at the Bobby Roberts Super Circus was exposed by ADI and shocked the nation, leading to the conviction of her owner, found guilty of offences under the Animal Welfare Act, and a commitment from Government in March 2012 to ban wild animals in circuses “at the earliest opportunity”. The Draft Wild Animals in Circuses Bill was subsequently published last April, however progress has stalled and the bill has yet to be introduced to Parliament. Responding to a letter from ADI signed by 75 celebrities and politicians, the Prime Minister has stated that he remains committed to ban what he calls “an outdated practice”.

In a bid to secure the legislation by 2015, ADI is giving its support to a new backbench bill fronted by former Labour Defra Minister Jim Fitzpatrick MP, to be introduced on 3 September, which seeks to ban wild animal acts before the next election.

ADI President, Jan Creamer, “The evidence is clear – the circus is no place for wild animals. Until legislation is brought in, these animals will continue to suffer. Let’s get a ban passed before the next circus season is underway by backing the new circus bill as it progresses through Parliament. It’s time to stop circus suffering in Britain once and for all.”

Until legislation is brought in, there are concerns that the number of wild animals will increase, as they have this year. Peter Jolly’s Circus for example has been reported in local media as saying that they would not rule out breeding, or getting an elephant – a disturbing prospect, given the terrible suffering endured by Anne the elephant and the elephants at the Great British Circus, both of which were only uncovered by ADI’s investigation, and not inspections.

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