Torture…to make us laugh

Friday, October 20th, 2006

Vet issues a damning verdict on Irish circuses – Government fails to protect animals

A shock report carried out by a leading vet reveals how circus animals in Ireland are suffering both physical and mental torture.

Animal behaviourist expert Samantha Lindley visited three circuses here in July 2006 and was left appalled by what she found.

Now the honorary fellow at the Royal School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh has accused the Government of ignoring the plight of performing animals by not introducing tough legislation.Press clipping

She said: ‘The welfare of animals is seriously compromised by their use in travelling circuses. These problems are not just associated with wild animals but with domesticated species as well.
‘The welfare of animals in circuses is not adequately monitored. No Government body carries out regular checks on the circuses to monitor animal welfare.

‘Current legislation in Ireland has no provisions specifically relating to the use of animals in circuses. The law is inadequate to protect the animals used in circuses.’

The report was carried out by the vet on behalf of Freedom for Animals.

Its publication follows a series of investigations by the Irish Sunday Mirror, which exposed the terrible conditions in which some circus animals are kept.

The use of animals in circuses has come under increasing criticism around the world. There is now a growing campaign for a ban to be introduced in Ireland.

The study reveals how some animals imported from across Europe ace gruelling journeys of more than 1,500km.

The traumatised animals may travel the whole of the country, sometimes performing at two venues in the space of a week.

There are seven Irish-based circuses using 102 animals including 43 wild beasts such as alligators, rhinos, snakes and tigers. The treatment of all the animals has been severely criticised by to vet Samantha Lindley.

Of all the species used in circuses in Ireland, elephants are perhaps the animals that raise most concerns about welfare.

There are six elephants performing at Irish-based circuses.

The Royal Russian Circus, Circus Sydney and Circus Vegas have two elephants each.

In August, a few days before a male elephant was due to have a veterinary examination, which was arranged by the DSPCA, both elephants at Circus Sydney were suddenly returned to Germany.

Samantha Lindley concludes in the report that acts at Circus Sydney were of particular concern.

She said: ‘An act where an elephant thrashes her trunk around and moves her head violently from side to side – mimicking a dance – are completely unnatural movements and run the risk of damaging the trunk musculature and nerve supply, putting unnecessary strain on neck muscles and cervical spine, and contributing to trunk paralysis.

‘These are no normal behaviours for an elephant; they represent potential injury and suffering and should be stopped.

‘The African male has a deformed left hind foot, but is still made to perform in the ring and travel long distances frequently, in addition to being chained up for long periods of time.’

Other animals facing alleged barbaric treatment for so-called public entertainment include and hippo and rhino at Circus Vegas and a giraffe at the Royal Russian Circus. In the hippo act, the animal is walked into the ring and fed some bread by his trainer.

The rhino runs around the ring with the presenter standing on the animal’s back

The giraffe is walked around the ring and fed bread by audience members.

Outside the big top, the vet found all the animals were kept in confined spaces and sometimes trapped by makeshift electric fences.

Freedom for Animals campaign manager Craig Redmond called for the use of all animals in circuses in Ireland to be banned for the benefit of animals and the public.

He added: ‘The public often only see how the animals are treated in the ring performance and may not get to see how the animals are housed and transported.

‘All training goes on out of the view of the public and animal welfare organisations.

‘There are also many health and safety risks to the public and circus staff by the use of animals.

‘Some countries have already taken the only possible step that will safeguard animal welfare and public safety, by banning the use of animals in circuses.’

To learn more about the vet’s findings, go to the website

‘It is disgraceful that one of the world’s most endangered species, the white rhino, is travelling in a circus and being shunted back and forth across Europe. The rhino is deprived of basic behavioural and physical needs. The overwhelming noise, flashing lights and competing smells will have been alarming to this animal.’

‘Adding to the welfare concerns arising from taking any hippo on tour, the act consists of the hippo running into the ring, standing on a podium and opening its mouth to have food thrown in.
The sounds of and contact with other hippos is important for the fulfilment of normal behavioural needs. This animal is deprived of that most basic commodity, the company of its own kind.’

‘Elephants are singularly unsuited to circus life. Their complex social life, high intelligence and massive size speak for themselves. It is hardly surprising that they are prone to diseases of captivity such as osteoarthritis of the foot and skin problems, and that they almost inevitably develop the signs of behavioural conflict that appear as repetitive behaviour. The conflict created by this life often ends fatally for these gentle giants.’

‘This giraffe is not coping with this environment or life and should not be kept in a circus of any description. There is ample reason for this animal to be frustrated in any attempt to behave normally.’

‘The tiger acts include animals jumping between pedestals, all four sitting up and lying down and doing a hind-leg stand. Simple enrichment such as the ability to climb and areas for scratching and marking should be provided for captive tigers.
The lack of such provisions could lead to displacement behaviour, where the animals act abnormally as a result of the inability to carry out normal behaviour.’

‘When not used in the circus ring, the alligators are housed in a small enclosure built into a lorry.
This clearly restricts their movements and natural behaviour such as hunting prey and building burrows.’

‘Ostriches are known for being aggressive around people and can seriously injure or kill with a powerful kick. While their natural instinct is to run away, this animal cannot do so in the confined space of the ring. Ostriches tend to be nomadic and live in groups of 5 to 50 individuals.

This animal is living in unnatural isolation in a circus.’

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.

Web Design, Web Development, Graphic Design by Papertank