Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Celebrity vet speaks out against “severely compromised” welfare of circus big cats

Posted: 3 December 2014. Updated: 3 December 2014

Marc Abraham joins ADI call for swift action to ban wild animal acts in UK

Celebrity vet Marc Abraham has called for a ban on wild animals in circuses in the UK after seeing how the lives of the animals from the last circus big cat act in Britain are “severely compromised”. Although the circus season is over, Animal Defenders International (ADI) has documented that the show must go on for the lions and tigers owned by Thomas Chipperfield who continue to put on display during the winter months on the exposed north east coast of Scotland. Confined most of the time to the back of the truck, the animals display behaviour that shows they are not coping with their restricted, unnatural environment.

Celebrity vet Marc Abraham said, “Big cats are never meant to live like this. These poor lions and tigers are being kept in a small cage on the back of a truck in a cold and exposed location, with limited access to their outdoor enclosure, and no place to retreat from public view. I am particularly concerned by the abnormal pacing behaviour the animals are displaying, a sure sign their welfare is severely compromised. I support the fantastic work of Animal Defenders International in calling on politicians to pass a ban which will end the suffering of all wild animals in circuses.”

Footage filmed by ADI at the big cats’ location in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, shows one of the three tigers pacing back and forth inside the ‘beastwagon’, made up of caged compartments in which the animals both live and are transported. This pacing is an abnormal, repetitive ‘stereotypic’ behaviour which is not seen in the wild, but is commonly observed in circuses, and indicates compromised welfare.

ADI documented similar scenes whilst the animals performed with Peter Jolly’s Circus earlier in the year, when wildlife vet Simon Adams and UNEP conservationist and former MEP Stanley Johnson voiced similar concerns. Simon Adams stated “the limited space available in a travelling circus is unsuitable to big cats”, and Stanley Johnson called for a ban on the “degrading and incredibly damaging” use of wild animals in British circuses.

The lives that the Chipperfield tigers endure in the circus are in stark contrast to the lives they would have in the wild. Given their solitary nature, tigers have limited contact with other tigers in the wild, and roam and defend their territory which can be as large as 470 km2. In the circus, they are forced to live caged inside their ‘beastwagon’ in close proximity to one another and alongside lions, who they would not encounter in the wild. Although an outdoor enclosure is provided, the big cats have limited access.

ADI President Jan Creamer said, “As vet Marc Abraham states, and ADI investigations show time and again, wild animals in circuses suffer. The public has already turned its back on such acts and now it is time for the government to play catch up and end circus suffering and bring in a ban without delay.”

The Chipperfield 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 table a motion calling on Scotland to ban such acts which has cross-party support. Early this year, the Scottish Government conducted a public consultation on the issue, to which a response is expected in the New Year.

Public support for a ban in the UK has been consistently high for 15 years. Over 200 local authorities have already banned the use of animals in circuses and, worldwide, 28 countries have national restrictions in place.

In Britain, the Government states it remains committed to banning the use of wild animals in circuses but little progress has been made since the measure was announced in 2012, leading Jim Fitzpatrick MP to introduce a Bill which enjoys cross-party support but continues to be blocked by just three Conservative MPs. It will have a second reading on 5th December.

ADI is currently caring for 30 lions and 9 monkeys as it works with authorities in Peru and Colombia to help enforce wild animal circus bans. The groundbreaking rescue mission, Operation Spirit of Freedom, follows a similarly historic operation by the organisation in Bolivia, charted in the award-winning documentary Lion Ark which is currently being shown at selected cinemas across the UK. A gala screening and celebrity fundraiser for the Peru rescue will be held on Saturday 6th December, attended by Bill Bailey, Bill Oddie, Alexei Sayle, Gillian McKeith, Celia Hammond and Bollywood actress Sofia Hayat. Tickets are available at

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Contact: Fleur Dawes +44 (0)20 7630 3344 or +44 (0)7785 552548

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

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

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.”

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.”

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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