Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Controversial big cat act barred from England

Posted: 22 September 2015. Updated: 22 September 2015

  • Tigers have just a third of the minimum space
  • Allowed out of cells for less than four hours
  • Suffering continues in Wales

One of the last travelling wild animal acts in Britain has been prevented from performing in England, revealed in previously withheld government documents released to Animal Defenders International. ‘Britain’s last lion tamer’ Thomas Chipperfield had planned to return to England over Summer with new big cat show ‘An Evening with Lions and Tigers’, but an inspection of the animals’ living conditions found them to be woefully inadequate. The show has attracted protests and petitions as it tours Wales, where regulations for wild animal acts do not apply. The show will next appear in Neath on Thursday. Animal Defenders International has warned the government to take urgent action to meet the December deadline for a long-promised circus ban, without which animals will be forced to continue suffering.

ADI President Jan Creamer said “We are appalled that these animals are being forced to endure such severely confined conditions. The evidence shows circuses are unable to provide the environment required to satisfy the complex needs of wild animals. The Government must now fulfil its long-standing promise to ban these archaic acts or be held responsible for continued animal suffering.”

Chipperfield’s act features two lions and three tigers who are forced to perform tricks for small audiences. The animals spend the majority of their time in cages on the back of a truck known as a ‘beastwagon’. Two of the tigers share a space of just over nine meters square – the size of a one-car garage – which is barely a third of the minimum requirement. They are let out of this tiny area for three and a half hours per day, well short of the six hour minimum. Despite providing a little more space for the lions and an older tiger, this was also found to be significantly short of minimum requirements.

The big cats’ conditions contrast starkly to those they would enjoy in the wild. Tigers are solitary and have limited contact with their own kind in their natural environment, roaming and defending a territory which can be as large as 470 km2. Chipperfield’s tigers live in close proximity to one another and alongside lions, who they would never encounter in the wild, in a confined beastwagon which is both their travelling and living quarters.

Animal Defenders International has previously documented the Chipperfield cats in their cages 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”. Wildlife vet Simon Adams also voiced concern at the animals’ confined environment, stating 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”.

The government announced its intention to ban wild animal circuses in 2012 and drafted legislation the following year, but inaction allowed Chipperfield to bring his big cat act to Britain from Ireland. Last year he used the same beastwagon to tour and perform in England and Wales with Peter Jolly’s Circus. The circus is one of two licensed to use wild animals in England under a system introduced as a temporary stop-gap ahead of a full ban.

The show has since set up in Wales, where licenses are not required. A Welsh government spokesperson stated recently that Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, Rebecca Evans has “made it clear that she wishes to move to a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses… We are pressing the UK government to deliver on the promise to legislate as soon as possible.”

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.

Jim Fitzpatrick MP has introduced Early Day Motion 192 to expedite the circus ban legislation which has secured cross-party support.

Fleur Dawes 020 7630 3344 or 07785 552548

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