Circus boss was warned of elephant danger when operating under different name

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Campaigners from Freedom for Animals have called on Courtney Brothers’ Circus to retire their elephants after a report shows that the circus was warned of elephant danger five years ago, when the act was operating under a different name.

In January 2007, Freedom for Animals released the first comprehensive report into the use of animals in Irish circuses and explicitly warned of the danger that keeping elephants posed to the public and circus staff. Amongst the circuses that the charity investigated was the Royal Russian Circus which, at the time, held two elephants. Serious concerns were raised in the report over the inadequacy of an electric fence which was sometimes switched on, and sometimes not, as the only means of protecting the public from the massive animals. In addition, the circus was criticised over the ease of access that members of the public had to the elephants with little supervision from staff. The report warned that “in allowing the public such contact with such an animal there is always a risk of a dangerous incident occurring”.

The Royal Russian Circus no longer exists in name but members of the public might be surprised to learn that, Courtney Brothers Circus, the show responsible for the two dangerous incidents involving an escaped elephant and a critically injured worker is, in fact, the Royal Russian Circus operating under a different name.

Wayne Courtney, who was previously responsible for the Royal Russian show and now heads up the current operation has spoken in press over the weekend about fears that the elephant’s food has been tampered with, whilst describing the incident in which a circus worker was critically injured as a “one in a million” accident. A Freedom for Animals spokesperson has accused the circus of “clutching at straws”.

Said Freedom for Animals Director, Liz Tyson:

“We don’t believe that any animal should be subjected to life in a travelling circus, but our concern is not just for the animals. We produced a report over five years ago which stated, in black and white, that the Courtney show was an accident just waiting to happen. Clearly the warning has been completely ignored and the circus now finds itself with one of its workers fighting for his life and a dangerous escape which could have ended in tragedy for both the elephant and members of the public.

“The circus is now implying that the elephants have somehow been interfered with. Of course, if someone had been able to tamper with the elephants’ food, as is being suggested by the circus, then the owners would have serious questions to answer on their ability to protect the animals from this sort of action.  It really seems as though the circus owners are now clutching at straws when they need to accept full responsibility for last week’s incidents. The only solution to protect animals and people is to allow these magnificent animals to retire once and for all”.

The charity also pointed out that the injury incident is not, as the circus suggests a “one in a million” accident as there have been numerous instances in the past of those working with elephants being injured, crushed or even killed by the animals. One such incident happened in 2005, when a worker at the Ireland-based Circus New York was gored by an elephant and spent time in intensive care.

The charity has joined calls made by local groups to implement emergency measures to prevent the use of wild animals in circuses in Ireland.

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.

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