Freedom for Animals exposes animal circuses in Ireland

Sunday, September 14th, 2003

Sunday Mirror, 14 September 2003

In the main ring, under the Big Top, an attractive young acrobat is balancing on a sealion’s NOSE. Is this great entertainment.. or yet another case of animal cruelty?

Animal rights activists have branded THREE of Ireland’s top circuses as cruel and degrading.

The Captive Animal’s Protection Society has lashed out at Circus Vegas, Fossett’s, and Duffy’s, accusing them of causing suffering to their animals – a claim circus owners say is disputed by independent vets.

Freedom for Animals claims circuses are forcing wild animals to live in cramped, squalid, captivity and perform unnatural, dangerous acts, and say many of the exotic animals including elephants, sealions, tigers and alligators, have shown signs of stress and frustration.

Craig Redmond, a Freedom for Animals campaigner, said the group was shocked at the conditions it found at the circuses it investigated.

He said; ‘For many people the circus is the greatest show on earth – but the public is never shown what goes on behind the glamour of the Big Top.

‘Circuses can simply never meet all of the needs of wild animals such as elephants, big cats, or sealions.
‘Such creatures have complex needs and a circus that travels the country for most of the year can, by the very nature, only provide temporary accommodation.

‘Vets specialising in the welfare and behaviour of wild animals in captivity have criticised the conditions we have exposed.’

When Freedom for Animals investigated the circuses, they uncovered helpless exotic animals being forced to live in appalling conditions.

Craig said: ‘In Circus Vegas after the sealions were finished performing they were taken away and put in a small pool of dirty water on the back of a lorry.

‘Vets we consulted believe this is inappropriate accommodation which could cause eye disease and other infections.

‘This circus also keeps elephants chained by their legs between performances.

‘Duffy’s Circus houses their tigers in a circus beast wagon with a very small exercise area. The alligators are kept in a tank built into the side of a lorry and one alligator was wearing a harness over his head which prevented him opening his mouth.’

Craig told how ruthless trainers forced these captive wild animals to perform acts that hurt and injured them.

‘In the ring majestic animals are ridiculed and forced into performing unnatural and dangerous acts.

‘At Circus Vegas elephants were made to ‘dance’ and regularly have a man hang from their tusks.

‘The elephants’ physical health are put at risk by making them vigorously twirl their trunks. They are also forced to hold each others tails. This can cause injury and paralysis if the tail is pulled hard.

‘During the interval an elephant is made to lie down on his front so children can get photos taken on his back.

This is an unnatural position for an elephant.

‘Performers who balance on sea lions’ snouts also cause damage to the animal.’

He said ill-treated animals show signs of their abuse by constant pacing and swaying which exposes their stress and frustration.

Fossett’s performing elephant Micki, who faces a long journey by ship from Sweden every year circus season to entertain Irish crowds, showed typical signs of stress.

After Micki performed the usual circus routines of standing and sitting on a podium, and standing on her back legs she was found by Freedom for Animals investigators weaving or rocking, which is a typical sign of stress.

Vet and animal behaviourist Samantha Scott said the animals in all three circuses showed signs of conflict and mental suffering.

She added: ‘It is difficult to talk about cruelty when it comes to circuses and zoos, as often they are given sufficient food and water.

‘The real problem is mental suffering – the animals in circuses are denied their basic freedom.

‘Elephants, for example, have no access to the normal group structure they are used to. But obviously animals can’t say they are unhappy but their behaviour does indicate their mental state.

‘The animals in these circuses were all weaving which is stepping back and forward and swinging their heads. There were elephants, camels, and even horses doing this action.’

Freedom for Animals has called on the public not to support animal circuses. Craig said: ‘The public can make a difference by not going to circuses that have performing animals and instead visiting human-only circuses.’

A spokesman from Fossett’s Circus denied any allegations of animal suffering.

He said: ‘Ted O’Connor, an inspector for the Cork Society For the Prevention of Cruelty, has come to inspect all our animals and gave us the thumbs up.

‘We are guided by vets and animal experts and they all tell us there is nothing wrong with our animals. this underlines what we already know.’

A spokesman from Duffy’s said: ‘We have our own veterinary group and it has never found any signs of animals suffering with our animals.’

Circus Vegas could not be contacted yesterday.

What can you do

– Boycott circuses with performing animals

Become a Freedom for Animals supporter – you can help to make a difference

– Write to your Assembly Member/TD, asking them to support a ban animal use in circuses. Contact details can be found HERE for Republic of Ireland and HERE for Northern Ireland

– Write to your local newspaper highlighting what is wrong with circuses.

Send a donation to help our campaigns – your contribution is vital.

Click HERE to get involved in our campaigns in the Republic of Ireland and HERE to get involved in Northern Ireland contact us to join our e-mail list.

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