Animal Defenders International

 

Animal Defenders International

Animal Welfare Bill - Government Betrays Circus Animals

Posted: 24 May 2005. Updated: 26 October 2012

14th July 2004: Animal Defenders International (ADI), whilst applauding moves to increase the protection of animals, is outraged that action has not been taken to end the abuse of circus animals.

The public appear to have got the message on animal circuses, but the Government is not listening.

ADI was assured that the use of animals in circuses would be included in the Bill, following our 18-month investigation of the use of animals in circuses which resulted in the cruelty convictions of top circus trainer Mary Chipperfield, her husband Roger Cawley, and their elephant keeper Steve Gills.

ADI Chief Executive Jan Creamer said today: “The Government has betrayed circus animals. There was an opportunity in this Bill to give them the protection they need. We have provided overwhelming video evidence of cruelty and abuse in circuses in the UK and the Government has ignored it. It appears that the Government wants to be seen to be doing something, but does not want to take on bigger issues."

Studies published by ADI in 1998 and 2003 found that circus animals are:
* chained, tethered, and restricted in every aspect of their lives;
* spend almost their entire lives on the road, moving from week to week, remaining in their wagons for excessive numbers of hours;
* When touring - Large cats spend 75-99% of their time in cages, with approximately 2m sq. of space per animal; elephants are chained in the stable tent, or outside, for 70-98% of the time; their chains are 1-2.5m long, meaning that they could only walk one step forward and back. Horses and ponies are in their stalls 74-98% of the time.
* In permanent (winter/training) quarters animals fare no better - Large cats spent 70-96% of their time in containers or cages, with 2.5 to 5m sq. per animal; elephants remained in the barn all of the time (100% for some animals, two animals left the barn for a few minutes each); elephants were chained for 69% of the time; bears - one group remained in a 2.5x10m bare cage 100% of the time, another single animal remained full-time in a 4.5x2m enclosure.
* the level of confinement of horses and ponies was unexpected - they suffered excessively long hours on lorries and tethered on short ropes in stalls.
* Whilst touring the number of hours shut in a transporter does not necessarily relate to the length of journey - it more frequently relates to the time of arrival at the destination, and the time that it takes to set up the circus tenting and other facilities, and unload the animals; the weather is a major factor. For example, a bear spent 39 hours in its transporter for a 5 hour journey, and similarly, a pony spent 23 hours tethered in its transporter for a short journey.
* Severe confinement, environmental deprivation, and inability to perform their natural behavioural repertoire causes animals to display abnormal, stereotypic (repetitive and pointless) behaviours, such as pacing, weaving, head swaying, etc.; all are signs of mental distress.
* Confinement is not limited to any particular species, but was found across the board, with few exceptions.
* for animals, life with the circus is one of boredom and frustration, punctuated by beatings. Abuse is part of daily life - whether it is a smack, a punch, a whipping, or a full-blown beating with a metal bar. When the abuse is not physical, it is verbal, and just as intimidating the animals cower in fear - a grown tigress urinated in fear when screamed at.

Under the Government’s new proposals:
- All of this confinement and deprivation will remain legal.
- It will be just as difficult to prosecute for cruelty - the only reason for the successful Chipperfield convictions was that ADI installed a hidden video in a barn.

ADI’s studies over the past ten years have demonstrated that with the best will in the world, under circumstances of constant travelling, circuses cannot provide adequately for the needs of the animals in their care. No other industry is actually based on keeping animals in temporary accommodation and forcing them to do unnatural tricks.

The benchmark of any enlightened animal protection legislation would be to stop this abuse.

Since the launch of ADI’s first report in 1998, and the subsequent cruelty trials, circuses touring with animals have halved. The public has understood the message - the Government has not.

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