Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Campaigners urge Swansea to join local MP and shun controversial big cat act

Posted: 15 October 2015

A controversial big cat show prevented from performing in England, cancelled from Bridgend and now appearing in Swansea is facing opposition from Animal Defenders International (ADI). The show has attracted local protests and petitions as it tours Wales, where regulations for wild animal circus acts do not apply. ADI is urging locals to avoid the “Victorian” form of entertainment overwhelmingly opposed by the British public. Local MP Carolyn Harris will be protesting against the show on Saturday alongside members of the community.

Animal circus trainer Thomas Chipperfield had planned to take his new big cat show ‘An Evening with Lions and Tigers’ to England this summer, but an inspection of the animals’ living conditions found them to be woefully inadequate. His act features two lions and three tigers who are forced to perform tricks. 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 required under regulations governing the use of wild animals in circuses in England, which do not apply in Wales. Despite providing a little more space for the lions and an older tiger, this was also found to be significantly short of minimum requirements.

Earlier this week, Hollywood star Rhys Ifans slammed the use of wild animals in circuses and gave his support to Animal Defenders International’s Stop Circus Suffering campaign saying, “Like bear baiting, witch burning and the ‘Welsh not’, this cruel practice belongs in the past”.

ADI President Jan Creamer said “We are appalled that these animals are being forced to endure such severely confined conditions. These Victorian attractions serve no educational or conservation purpose and cause animals to suffer. We urge the people of Swansea to avoid this archaic animal act and for landowners not to profit from this exploitative wild animal show – please sign our petition today.”

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. The animals are let out for just three and a half hours per day, well short of the minimum six hour requirement, which Chipperfield is required to meet before he can perform in England.

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 Welsh Labour Manifesto includes an as-yet unfulfilled commitment to ban wild animal circuses. Last month the Welsh Conservatives pledged to do the same calling the shows “barbaric” and “damaging”. Carolyn Harris MP for Swansea East has signed a motion to expedite legislation and will join locals in protesting against ‘An Evening with Lions and Tigers’ on Saturday.

The UK 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, which Defra states has since been modified, 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 the temporary regulations introduced as a stop-gap ahead of a full ban.

After being denied a licence by local authorities to perform in Scotland, a later show by Thomas Chipperfield in Herefordshire was cancelled after Animal Defenders International raised concerns, with a petition attracting 12,000 signatures in just four days. ’An Evening with Lions and Tigers’ then set up in Wales where performances have sparked an outcry from animal organisations and members of the public, attracting negative publicity, low audiences and disappointment from local politicians.

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

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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