Renewed calls for a ban on the use of animals in Irish circuses following elephant escape

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Campaigners from Freedom for Animals joined local campaign groups in Ireland in adding their voice to calls for immediate action following the dangerous escape of an elephant from Courtney Brothers’ Circus on Tuesday. The elephant, named “Baby”, is one of five that the circus are using in their show this season, despite growing public opposition to the use of these majestic creatures in demeaning and unnatural stunts under the big top. The show has seen local activists staging peaceful protests to highlight serious concerns for both the welfare of the animals and the very fact that animals are still being used in this way for public entertainment.

In each town that the circus has visited, circus staff have staged an “elephant parade” to announce their arrival through the streets of the town. Baby’s escape though, was no planned stunt. An eyewitness said that Baby became upset as the elephants were being hosed down, broke through barriers and ran into the car park of a busy shopping centre. Video footage taken from an office window shows staff apparently pulling Baby by her ears to bring her under control and using an implement known as a “bullhook” on her side and legs to attempt to control her and she runs into the road.

Footage of circus representative, Joey Gartner, shows Gartner claiming that there was never any danger to the public, as Baby likes people, but these claims, says a charity spokesperson, are “ridiculous”.

Said Liz Tyson, Freedom for Animals Director:

“Yesterday’s events highlight just one of our many concerns over the use of animals in circuses. We are working towards seeing a ban on the practice because we firmly believe that a life of confinement, constant transportation and often cruel training methods using implements like the “bullhook” seen in the publicised footage, is totally unacceptable.  In addition to this, to argue that there is no danger to the public, or the animal itself, when an elephant weighing in at 2.2 tonnes is roaming busy streets amidst traffic and pedestrians, is ridiculous. Apart from being an extremely frightening and dangerous situation for Baby, it is clear that this circus is failing to effectively protect both animals and the public from injury. We will be contacting the relevant authorities in Ireland to request that they investigate this matter and the circus is held accountable”.

In 2007, Freedom for Animals released a detailed report into the use of animals in circuses in Ireland, which uncovered a great number of welfare issues. Amongst the circuses surveyed was the “Royal Russian Circus”, which is, in fact, Courtney’s Brothers operating under a different name[i].

Experts agree that elephants are inherently unsuited to life in captivity[ii].


Contact: Liz Tyson, Director, Freedom for Animals +44 845 330 3911


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