Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Ireland says goodbye to wild animal show that “set circus back 30 years”

Posted: 8 April 2016. Updated: 8 April 2016

Circus Belly Wien packs up 7 months early as public says no to suffering

The controversial Circus Belly Wien has packed up and is making its way to France less than two months into its 9-month tour of Ireland following roars of disapproval from the public. With no legislation in place to prohibit similar shows from travelling to Ireland, Animal Defenders International (ADI) and Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN) has renewed its call to the government to ban wild animal acts. The move away from such acts is supported by Irish circuses who spoke out against Circus Belly Wien, with one stating it had “set circus back 30 years”.

Jan Creamer, President of Animal Defenders International: “Circuses with animals have had their day and the public has voted with their feet against the suffering. The message that forcing animals to perform is not entertaining has been sent loud and clear and we urge the government to listen to the wishes of the Irish people and ban wild animal acts.”

“Irish people have spoken,” says ARAN’s John Carmody. “With protests, political opposition and the public saying no to elephants and other bewildered animals in this circus, it was only a matter of time before the big top turned into the big stop. We say good riddance to Circus Belly Wien’s animal-acts, and hope that Irish circuses now proceed to removing all animals from their shows so that Ireland can finally have a circus industry that is truly with the times."

Circus Belly Wien set up in Ireland having been prevented from performing in The Netherlands, where the use of wild animals was banned last year. Their arrival in February was met with condemnation from ADI and ARAN, who have been campaigning against the suffering of animals in circuses for over 10 years. In that time, the number of wild animals used has fallen from nearly 70 to just a handful, with Courtney Brothers Circus being the only one still to feature such acts in its show – including tigers from the now disbanded Great British Circus in England, where ADI documented abuse during training. Over the last decade, the Arts Council has also slashed its funding of animal acts, with a growing number of local bans also being introduced across the country.

One circus previously touring with wild animal acts is Fossett’s who, as documented by ADI and ARAN, had previously toured with an elephant who was kept chained in the circus tent and camels who, like the elephant, exhibited stereotypical behaviour. Acknowledging changing times and public attitudes, Fossett’s Marketing Manager Charles O’Brien recently told RTE Radio 1 that “the use of exotic animals, certainly among Duffy’s Circus and ourselves Fossett’s, has been phased out over the last number of years, partly for commercial reasons, partly for humane considerations”. Expressing his disapproval of Circus Belly Wien, he went on to say that their arrival had “set circus back 30 years”.

An All-Island system of regulation for the use of wild animals in circuses is being considered, although Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) Minister Michelle O’Neill has not ruled out a ban. If a prohibition is passed, ADI and ARAN has offered to assist with the relocation of animals. ADI has conducted a number of rescue operations around the world and is currently working with authorities in Peru and Colombia to enforce wild animal circus bans there. The organisation has rescued over 100 animals from circuses and the illegal wildlife trade, with 33 lions will soon be airlifted to a sanctuary in South Africa.

In Britain, ADI evidence of abuse led to a public backlash against circuses with animals and a commitment from the government to ban wild animal acts - a commitment which is still to be realised. Only two circuses now perform in England with wild animals, Circus Mondao and Peter Jolly’s Circus, who are licensed under a temporary scheme introduced by the government ahead of the ban. ADI evidence has shown that inspections have not safeguarded welfare or protected animals from abuse. A third circus with lions and tigers toured Wales last year where the regulations do not apply. Fronted by Thomas Chipperfield, ‘An Evening with Lions and Tigers’ circus withdrew their licence application to tour England after an inspection of the animals’ living conditions found them to be woefully inadequate.

The suffering of wild animals in circuses is now widely acknowledged, with animals enduring severe confinement in deprived and unnatural environments, inadequate diets and physical abuse. The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) is urging “all European and national competent authorities to prohibit the use of wild mammals in travelling circuses across Europe since there is by no means the possibility that their physiological, mental and social requirements can adequately be met.”

The use of wild animals in circuses also presents a public safety risk; workers and members of the public have been maimed and killed by circus animals. Images and video of Circus Belly Wien showed families in close proximity to the elephants with no protective barriers in place.

ADI: Devon Prosser 020 7630 3344 or 07785 552548
ARAN: John Carmody +353 (0)87-2391646

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