Animal Defenders International

 

Animal Defenders International

No respite for circus big cats, still on show and facing bleak Scottish winter

Posted: 7 November 2014. Updated: 7 November 2014

ADI calls for measures to ban wild animal acts to be brought in swiftly to prevent further suffering

New footage filmed by Animal Defenders International (ADI) and reported by the Daily Mirror has revealed the dismal daily lives of the last big cats performing in a British circus when the season comes to an end. There is no respite for the lions and tigers owned by Thomas Chipperfield, who have been trucked up to North East Scotland on a gruelling 24 hour journey. They are set to spend the bitter winter months on show to the public in their home – the truck they travel in – sited in a muddy field and exposed to the elements.

The big cats are the first wild circus animals to be seen in Scotland for several years, and their arrival has caused Aberdeen MSP Kevin Stewart to call on Scotland to ban such acts. ADI is supporting this measure and also a Bill to ban wild animals in circuses in England which will have its crucial second reading today.

ADI’s new footage was filmed in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, and shows one of the three tigers pacing back and forth inside the ‘beastwagon’, in which the animals live and are also transported in. This abnormal, repetitive ‘stereotypic’ behaviour is not seen in the wild, but is commonly observed in circuses, and indicates that the animals are not coping with their unnatural lives.

Whilst in the circus the big cats face the crowds for set periods at show time and during ‘zoo time’ when customers pay a small fee to see the animals after the show. In Fraserburgh, the animals face a stream of visitors all day, with Thomas Chipperfield accepting donations from those who come to see the big cats.

Although those paying a visit to see the animals may be reassured that they are well treated, the lives they endure are a stark contrast to the lives they would have in the wild, or even in a zoo. Given their solitary nature, tigers in the wild have limited contact with other tigers, and roam and defend their territory which could be as large as 470 km2. In the circus, they are forced to live caged inside the ‘beastwagon’ in close proximity, and alongside another cat species who they would not encounter in the wild. Although an outdoor enclosure is provided, the big cats have limited access – one of many welfare issues.

ADI President Jan Creamer, who is currently leading a mission to rescue big cats and other wild animals from circuses in South America said, “Even when the circus season ends, these animals are still on show, and enduring conditions which deny them their most basic behaviours. It is heartbreaking to see these majestic animals reduced to this existence. It is a national disgrace – it is time for Britain to act and ban wild animals in circuses.”

ADI documented similarly abnormal behaviour whilst the animals were on tour with Peter Jolly’s Circus earlier this year. Wildlife vet Simon Adams stated “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.”

The three tigers – Nadia, a 17 year old female, and Altai and Syas, both 3 year old males – and two lions – Assegai and Tsavo, 4 year old males – have been touring with the circus, one of two licensed to perform in England with wild animal acts, since they were shipped in from a circus in Ireland last year. The only big cat act in Britain, the animals are presented and trained by Thomas Chipperfield, a relative of the notorious Mary Chipperfield who was convicted for animal cruelty as a result of an ADI investigation.

A string of welfare and animal management issues at Peter Jolly’s Circus were revealed earlier this month in circus inspection reports released to ADI. These included the circus failing to provide animals with water in a pre-performance holding area and withholding water for the tigers to bathe in, denying them the ability to perform this natural behaviour, albeit in a small trough of water. The big cats’ microchips had also not been read since they were acquired, owing in part to the animals being insufficiently trained.

The reports additionally stated how snakes had been allowed to get to an “advanced” state of putrefaction, preventing a post-mortem examination to determine their cause of death; veterinary records were found to be incomplete; humidity readings for the snake vivarium were not recorded and the raccoon’s enclosure size was noted as being “only just acceptable”.

Public support for a ban in the UK has been consistently high for 15 years, with a Defra public consultation showing a resounding 94% of respondents supporting a ban. Over 200 local authorities in the UK already have bans on the use of animals in circuses, and 28 countries worldwide have national restrictions in place, the most recent of which was Malta which introduced its ban in October, within a year of draft legislation being published.

The British Government has remained committed to banning the use of wild animals in circuses since it announced it would prohibit such acts in 2012 but has cited ‘lack of parliamentary time’ for being unable to progress to date. To secure legislation, and the proposed implementation date of December 2015, former Defra Minister Jim Fitzpatrick MP has introduced a Bill supported by ADI which will have its second reading today. The Bill has been blocked on three previous occasions, reportedly to allow an EU Referendum Bill to progress which has now been shelved, leaving the way clear for the circus Bill to pass.

In Scotland, the government opened a public consultation on the use of wild animals in circuses earlier this year, its response to which has been delayed until the New Year, prompting a warning from ADI President Jan Creamer that “Scotland risks being the destination for its wild animal acts”. Less than two weeks later, the lions and tigers arrived in Aberdeenshire, prompting Mr Stewart’s motion.

ADI is currently working with Government authorities in South America to help enforce wild animal circus bans in Peru and Colombia as part of a groundbreaking rescue mission, Operation Spirit of Freedom. 27 lions and 11 monkeys are currently in ADI’s care. Having been removed from the circus, the animals will be relocated to their permanent homes once they are fit and ready to travel.

ADI undertook a similar rescue in Bolivia, having secured a nationwide ban on all animal circus acts, and the award-winning documentary Lion Ark – which charts the historic mission – will be screened at cinemas across the UK from November 11th until December 17th.

ADI’s campaign to stop circus suffering in Britain is supported by politicians of all parties, leading animal protection groups and celebrities including Ricky Gervais, Dame Judi Dench, Brian Blessed, Twiggy, Eddie Izzard and Sir Roger Moore.

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Contact: Fleur Dawes +44 (0)20 7630 3344 or +44 (0)7785 552548 prdesk@ad-international.org

Additional footage and images of the Chipperfield big cats and other wild animals in British circuses, as well as animals rescued from circuses, are available on request

The Wild Animals in Circuses Bill was introduced on Wednesday 3rd September by Jim Fitzpatrick MP

Motion S4M-11344: Ban Circuses from Using Wild Animals introduced by Kevin Stewart MSP


Circus inspection reports

The Scotsman “Scotland ‘a magnet for circuses using wild animals’”

Lion Ark screenings

Circus bans worldwide

Twitter #circusban

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, and educates the public on animals and environmental issues.

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