Animal Defenders International

 

Animal Defenders International

Victory! Country Fair axes lion act after ADI campaign

Posted: 7 July 2015

Herefordshire Country Fair has cancelled a controversial lion show after Animal Defenders International (ADI) raised significant animal welfare concerns with event organisers. ADI’s Care2 petition against the circus-style performance attracted over 12,000 signatures in just four days, reflecting overwhelming public opposition to such wild animal acts.

ADI President Jan Creamer said “We are delighted that the Herefordshire Country Show has had a change of heart and pulled this Victorian lion act. Public opinion is clear – it is offensive in this day and age to make wild animals perform in the name of entertainment, and widely accepted that animals’ welfare needs cannot be met. The government must take action to pass long overdue legislation to prohibit wild animal acts.”

A stand-alone show featuring the lions and tigers was denied a licence by local authorities in Scotland earlier this year, but ‘An evening with lions and tigers’ got the go-ahead in Welshpool, Powys. The event runs until Sunday 12 July and has attracted negative publicity and condemnation from animal organisations and members of the public, with low audience levels reported.

In Herefordshire, four year old lions Assegai and Tsavo were to appear in four performances and be on display all day. The lions live in cages alongside tigers Nadia, Altai and Syas on the back of a truck known as a ‘beastwagon’. Their owner is circus trainer Thomas Chipperfield, a relative of the notorious Mary Chipperfield who was convicted for multiple counts of animal cruelty in the late 1990s following an investigation by ADI.

Chipperfield and his family toured with Duffy’s Circus in Ireland for many years before returning to Britain in 2013, where he presented a big cat act at Peter Jolly’s Circus – one of two circuses still performing with wild animals. After causing outrage with the return of big cats to a British circus, Chipperfield took the lions and tigers to spend the cold winter months on the Scottish coast.

The lives that the Chipperfield big cats endure are in stark contrast to those they would have in the wild. Given their solitary nature, in their natural environment tigers have limited contact with their own kind, roaming and defending a territory which can be as large as 470 km2. In their confined travelling circus living quarters, the Chipperfield tigers live in close proximity to one another and alongside lions, who they would not encounter in the wild.

Voicing his concern at the environment the animals are forced to endure, wildlife vet Simon Adams said that the ability to be able to patrol their huge natural territories was “an essential behavioural drive” and that “the limited space available in a travelling circus is unsuitable to big cats”.

ADI has documented the Chipperfield cats exhibiting abnormal, repetitive behaviour not witnessed in the wild but commonly seen in performing animals. Their unnatural behaviour has been described by vet Marc Abraham as “a sure sign their welfare is severely compromised”.

The British public is overwhelmingly opposed to the use of performing wild animals, and their distaste for this outdated form of entertainment is reflected by consistently high support for a wild animal circus ban. A 2013 YouGov poll found, with regard to the use of lions and tigers, 78% and 79% believed these animals should not be used in circuses.

Over 200 local councils have banned animal circuses from public land and the Government is committed to prohibiting wild animal acts nationwide, for which legislation has already been drafted, with Wales seeking to be included in the new law. Scotland will soon announce its plans following a public consultation which recently revealed that 98% of respondents support a ban.

To expedite the circus ban legislation, Jim Fitzpatrick MP has introduced Early Day Motion 192, which has secured cross-party support since being tabled two weeks ago.

Contact: Fleur Dawes 020 7630 3344 or 07785 552548 prdesk@ad-international.org

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