Should we ban cir­cuses?

How ADI are cam­paign­ing to bring cir­cus suf­fer­ing to an end

World of Animals - - What's In­side - Words Laura Mears

“The key thing that peo­ple don’t re­alise is that the whole point of a cir­cus per­for­mance is to give an il­lu­sion,” says Jan Creamer, pres­i­dent of An­i­mal De­fend­ers In­ter­na­tional. “They are not en­joy­ing them­selves.”

An­i­mal De­fend­ers In­ter­na­tional has spent the past 25 years cam­paign­ing to end the suf­fer­ing of an­i­mals in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try. As the UK Gov­ern­ment an­nounces a fresh com­mit­ment to ban wild an­i­mals in trav­el­ling circuses in Eng­land, Jan speaks to us about the work the ADI have done to ex­pose the truth about the con­di­tions an­i­mals face in trav­el­ling shows.

“We have in­ves­ti­gated hun­dreds of circuses world­wide in the last 25 years, and we have found it to be con­sis­tent,” Jan begins. The an­i­mals are lit­tle more than a prod­uct, or a tool, that per­forms in or­der to make money.

“They are kept in very small, bar­ren, de­prived con­di­tions. The an­i­mals are de­prived of any­thing that would stim­u­late and in­ter­est them.

“If it’s a pony, it ar­rives in the truck, it’s un­loaded. A sta­ble tent is put up and the pony is put into a stall. It’s tied on a short rope, fac­ing the wall… Some­times they’re pro­vided with exercise en­clo­sures, but be­cause of the num­bers of an­i­mals, that has to be shared,” Jan ex­plains.

They might get the op­por­tu­nity to stretch their legs on grass,

or in a car park, but they have to take turns to pre­vent fights. Above all, Jan tells us, the an­i­mals need to be ready to per­form. “If it is wet and they make a mess of them­selves, they’d have to be cleaned be­fore go­ing into the show. So of­ten they stay in the tents to keep them from get­ting dirty.”

Wild an­i­mals are less com­pli­ant than do­mes­tic an­i­mals, and they are of­ten large and dan­ger­ous. Ul­ti­mately, this puts them at risk of abuse. ADI uses un­der­cover agents to ex­pose cir­cus con­di­tions, and their footage is har­row­ing.

Jan ex­plains how their of­fi­cers gather ev­i­dence. “They take work – any kind of job – car­ing for the an­i­mals, erect­ing equip­ment or tents. They get to know the rou­tine of the cir­cus and the rou­tine of the an­i­mals. It is very im­por­tant that their pres­ence doesn’t in­flu­ence the way the an­i­mals are treated.

“What we’re try­ing to get is a real-life view of what goes on. So we use hid­den cam­eras.” This in­volves the team trav­el­ling from cir­cus to cir­cus to get a good pic­ture of the cul­ture across the in­dus­try.

“You see ele­phants chained to the ground by two legs, barely able to make one step back­wards or for­wards.

And those an­i­mals are stand­ing for hour upon hour upon hour in the same po­si­tion.” Jan tells us that, after ten or 20 years, these an­i­mals don't know how to do any­thing but rock back and forth. “Those kinds of move­ments be­come so psy­cho­log­i­cally in­grained that they close down.” The ef­fect is dev­as­tat­ing.

“We have two lady spec­ta­cled bears, Cholita and Dominga, and they are both com­pletely bald from the stress of their cap­tiv­ity. Cholita has had two teeth taken out and her fin­gers have been cut off, and Dominga has sim­i­lar prob­lems.” Jan tells us that this is a com­mon form of abuse of car­ni­vores in circuses, and it’s done to pre­vent them at­tack­ing their keep­ers.

ADI res­cue an­i­mals like Cholita and Dominga from circuses as they close down. “They can never live fully wild, but we do try to give them an en­vi­ron­ment that’s as close

“ADI uses un­der­cover agents to ex­pose cir­cus con­di­tions, and their footage is har­row­ing”

as pos­si­ble to that. They each have their own fenced area of rain­for­est that is just for them. And, of course, they have each other for neigh­bours.”

To date, 43 coun­tries have out­lawed the use of wild an­i­mals in trav­el­ling circuses, and ADI are op­ti­mistic that a ban in the UK is com­ing. Their case hinges on three crit­i­cal pieces of ev­i­dence. The first came in 1998, when three months of un­der­cover footage revealed an­i­mal abuse at the hands of cir­cus owner Mary Chip­per­field. She sub­jected a baby chim­panzee to re­peated beat­ings while keep­ers hit ele­phants with sticks, metal bars and bull­whips. As a re­sult of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, courts found Mary and her hus­band guilty of 12 cru­elty charges.

“That was very sig­nif­i­cant be­cause it was the first time that re­ally ac­cu­rate footage had been taken, de­tailed ev­i­dence had been pre­sented and a con­vic­tion had been se­cured under the 1911 Pro­tec­tion of An­i­mals Act,” Jan ex­plains. The case went on to in­flu­ence the 2006 An­i­mal Wel­fare Act that now pro­tects an­i­mals in the UK.

This new act de­tailed five crit­i­cal wel­fare needs that must be met. An­i­mals must have a suit­able en­vi­ron­ment, a proper diet, and the op­por­tu­nity to ex­hibit nor­mal be­hav­iour. De­pend­ing on the species, they need hous­ing with, or apart from, other an­i­mals, and they must have pro­tec­tion from pain, suf­fer­ing, in­jury and dis­ease. ADI ar­gue that trav­el­ling circuses can­not pos­si­bly meet all of these needs.

In 2012 they filmed Anne the ele­phant at Bobby Roberts’ cir­cus. “She went into her barn at the end of the sea­son and stayed there un­til the next sea­son,” Jan tells us. “She was chained to the ground by two legs and only oc­ca­sion­ally when she was in clear dis­tress was she moved and the chain was swapped over to the other legs.” Like Mary Chip­per­field be­fore him, Mr Roberts also faced prose­cu­tion.

In the same year the UK Gov­ern­ment drafted a ban on the use of wild an­i­mals in trav­el­ling circuses, and in the in­terim it in­tro­duced new reg­u­la­tions in an at­tempt to pro­tect an­i­mals. The Wel­fare of Wild An­i­mals in Trav­el­ling Circuses (Eng­land) Reg­u­la­tions tried to solve the prob­lem us­ing li­cens­ing and in­spec­tion. But, as ADI found out, it just isn’t working.

“This was the Gov­ern­ment’s at­tempt to take on­board the cir­cus in­dus­try’s claims that they could pro­tect the wel­fare of their an­i­mals,” ex­plains Jan. “Even with the best will, and if they try as hard as they can, they can’t pro­duce a pic­ture of how those an­i­mals ac­tu­ally live day to day.

“At the ex­act time when a cir­cus owner was say­ing to par­lia­ment that they don’t chain their ele­phants, we were able to show on the hid­den cam­era that they were chained to the ground. Ac­cord­ing to the in­spec­tions that we filmed, in­spec­tions by lo­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers and the RSPCA, the chains were re­moved be­fore the in­spec­tion, and the hasps into the ground that the chains were fixed to were cov­ered with straw.”

In an­other piece of footage, a male tiger at­tacked and badly in­jured a fe­male li­on­ess. “An in­spec­tion was due, so they took the in­jured li­on­ess and put her in the back of a cage and then cov­ered her up with bales of straw. The in­spec­tor stood out­side that cage dis­cussing the an­i­mals with the cir­cus owner and had no idea she was there.

“We wanted to prove to the Gov­ern­ment that, even with in­spec­tion, it was very easy for circuses to cover up what is hap­pen­ing to the an­i­mals,” Jan tells us. “In these cir­cum­stances you sim­ply can­not say that you can pro­tect these an­i­mals.”

Amid mount­ing ev­i­dence, the Welsh Gov­ern­ment com­mis­sioned Bris­tol Univer­sity to re­view the data. In a

“She was chained to the ground by two legs and only when she was in dis­tress was the chain swapped over

study pub­lished in 2016 they looked at 764 peer-re­viewed sci­en­tific pa­pers and con­sulted 658 in­ter­na­tional ex­perts and or­gan­i­sa­tions. They spoke to train­ers, vets, bi­ol­o­gists, lawyers, species ex­perts, sanc­tu­ar­ies and zoos. Their con­clu­sion was that life for an­i­mals in circuses “is not worth liv­ing”.

The UK Gov­ern­ment orig­i­nally promised a ban on wild an­i­mals in trav­el­ling circuses be­fore the end of 2015. A bill was read for the first time in 2016 and was due to be read again on Fri­day 12 May, 2017. How­ever, par­lia­ment then dis­solved on the 3 May in prepa­ra­tion for a Gen­eral Elec­tion and the bill was con­se­quently side­lined. Now the Gov­ern­ment has once again promised to end the prac­tice in Eng­land, with a fi­nal dead­line set for Jan­uary 2020.

Only time will tell if they can achieved this aim.

“This is an is­sue whose time has come,” Jan says. “The ev­i­dence has built, the pub­lic has seen the ev­i­dence, the Gov­ern­ment has ac­cepted the ev­i­dence and time has come for real change. This is the mo­ment for an­i­mals in en­ter­tain­ment and es­pe­cially for an­i­mals in circuses.”

Two circuses still per­form in Eng­land with wild an­i­mals: Cir­cus Mon­dao and Pe­ter Jolly’s Cir­cus. For Jan the crux of the ar­gu­ment is about how we treat the other species that share our planet. “Is it right to make an­i­mals suf­fer just for a few min­utes of hu­man en­ter­tain­ment?”

ADI put out Face­book alerts when they want peo­ple to take ac­tion, and Jan has an ex­tremely im­por­tant message for all World of An­i­mals read­ers: “If you get in­volved with ADI’s cam­paigns, you ab­so­lutely will make a dif­fer­ence.”

ABOVE An­i­mals per­form tricks against their nat­u­ral in­stincts, like jump­ing through a burn­ing ring

LEFT An ele­phant per­forms tricks dur­ing Cir­cus Krone in Ger­many 2017

ABOVE Tigers learn tricks at Hei­longjiang Siberian Tiger Park in China

Lion tamers per­form dar­ing feats to im­press cir­cus crowds, of­ten re­sult­ing in dis­tress for the an­i­mals

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