Your Guide to the Reality of Animal Circus

"The academic panel concluded that there appears to be little evidence to demonstrate that the welfare of animals kept in travelling circuses is any better or worse than that of animals kept in other captive environments" - Executive Summary of the DEFRA Circus Working Group 2007

Join us on Facebook The WELFARE of Circus animals.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Lies, Damn Lies and Internet Opinion Polls (Part 2)

If you have read the first part of this post you will be aware of two things: Firstly that internet opinion polls have serious fundamental flaws. Secondly that the so-called "consultation" on animals in circuses, initiated between 21st December 2009 and 15th March 2010, included an electronic poll that gave significant bias to opponents of animal circuses. Even if you were not privy to this information you would think that educated people who would be a little suspicious of a result like 92-97% in favour of banning something that is still pulling regular mainstream audiences all over the country. However, this preposterous result has been quoted and touted by MPs, journalists and celebrities

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Thomas Chipperfield's Lion Training Video Diary (part 2)

Thomas Chipperfield continues to demonstrate in his vlog how lions are trained for the circus. These training sessions are run regularly and openly to the general public, helping to address misconceptions and better educate the general public regarding circus animals.  As you can see the animals are improving well.
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Monday, 25 July 2011

A Commons Circus of Animals and Clowns by Dominic Lawson

Photograph of the debating chamber of the Brit...Image via Wikipedia
Celebrated writer Dominic Lawson saw what many failed (or feared) to when back bench politicians decided to have a game of "political football" with the animal circus issue on 23rd June. His observations, comparable with views expressed in an article written on 27th June by The Herald's Andrew McKie, cut straight to the absurdity of the whole issue and exposes the serious lack of research and information provided by the anti-wild-animals-in-circus MPs. 

A Commons Circus of Animals and Clowns
Dominic Lawson -
Copyright: The Sunday Times. 26 June 2011 page 23

Some might say it is a cruel, if traditional, spectacle; at times little more than the baiting of enclosed creatures performing under huge stress for the gratuitous amusement of the watching public. Even so, I would not endorse the outright banning of House of Commons debates.

The Commons, however, has called for the complete banning of all wild animals in circuses, to take effect by July 1, 2012. This was the outcome of a debate of furious intensity, yet with an almost complete lack of opposing voices. Member upon member jumped up last Thursday to demand that the deputy Speaker give him or her more minutes to expatiate on the presumed suffering of wild animals in our circuses. There are now only 39 remaining: that is, only 39 such ani­mals in the entire country.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Special Bond by Sally Chipperfield

Since I can remember the circus community has been consumed by their battle against those who condemn their training and keeping of animals. There is evidence that this fight has gone on for a very long time. Sadly as interest in circus declined with the advent of television, so the topic of Animal Rights and opposition to circus became something of an obsession among circus folk. Often circus people become frustrated with each other and with their supporters for not doing more to defend their culture. The writers of this blog are among those frustrated people. However, it is often easy to forget the reasons why people continue or get into circus in the first place. It is with great pleasure that this blog presents the following some very short anecdotes of someone who despite often being at the sharp end of the opposition's stick few who have ever known her could say she showed anything but care for her animals (or people for that matter). Sally Chipperfield, daughter of Dick Chipperfield Snr, underpins the bond that develops between animal trainers and their charges, and puts forward (shock horror!) the argument that it is a two way street... 

Reflection on recent events by Gail Wilmot

In the British tradition of Miss Marple and others, Gail Wilmott proved herself to be something of a efficient amateur sleuth when she uncovered an example of how freely people lie about circus animals. Since then Gail has reflected on the injustices faced by perhaps the UK's most poorly represented culture. She discusses the way a mainstream tabloid happily took the role as minister for propaganda for the Animal Rights lobbyists with a very easy to corrupt internet petition (below is a screen shot taken in real time, showing shameless multiple entries on this petition). She also discusses how MPs happily responded to these lobbyists in Parliament without attempting to view the other side of the story...

In my article about the Circus “Rescue” story being aproven FAKE I mentioned how low the animal rights people will stoop to get their intimidating lies and non-factual information out there. So I thought I'd add some more on the subject.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Questions awaiting answers (A.K.A. If Not, Why Not?) by David Konyot

question markImage via WikipediaDavid Konyot takes a proactive stance in his approach to the opposition UK animal circuses face. David has formulated a set of questions derived from the ethics that underpin Britain's attitude towards the law and democracy. Outside of this we can look at it from the way a rational argument is decided. The burden is always on the shoulders of the claimant. It is down to them to produce empirical and testable evidence to support their claim. There have been two separate major scientific investigations into UK animal circuses. The first, in 1990, was commissioned by long-time and current circus opponent, the RSPCA, and returned with conclusions that did not support the concept of abolishing any animal usage in circus. It did say that improvements were needed, but achievable, and noted that circuses were often viewed with a degree of prejudice when

Friday, 15 July 2011

Lies, Damn Lies and Internet Opinion Polls (Part 1)

A percent sign.Image via WikipediaWhen the Radford Report  delivered its verdict on animals in circuses in 2007 after the implementation of the Animal Welfare Bill 2006 many naively thought that the hysteria could be quelled and rationalism could prevail. The problem is that humans are not rational animals. The circus issue is suitably emotive, a pure animal rights one (as opposed to animal welfare) and its a very tempting target for those who raise funds on the back of political matters. A government "consultation" on animals in circuses was initiated between  21st December 2009 and 15th March 2010. This pretty much took the form an opinion poll. The result of this poll has been banded around as anything from 92% to 97% in favour of a ban on animals in circuses.

The result to anyone who has not got some vested interest in supporting a ban is incredulity. The laws of supply and demand just simply do not support this supposed popular opinion. Circus is not a religion or a charity and has enormous overheads. Just stop and think about the running costs for a moving performance company that is constantly on the road, living on site, and you even have to supply your own venue, lighting sound, props, rigs and work vehicles. That's before you get to the running cost of the animals, which have to be fed, housed, bedded and inspected/treated by vets. Oh yes and you have to pay the staff.  It receives no funding than from the pockets of consumers and no tax benefits of any shape or form. And yet, despite there only being a very small number of animal circuses in existence in the United Kingdom, they still exist. Surely this fact alone should be enough to bring such a ridiculous figure into disrepute.

However, if that doesn't quite convince you then please take a look at Rona Brown of PAWSI's (Perfoming Animals and Welfare Standard International) list of reason why the poll and consultation process was seriously flawed:

a.  The period of the consultation was during the non touring circus year when circuses return to their home base and take a break until Easter time. Because of this circuses had no access to their clientèle of appreciative audiences.

b. The effect of choosing this period of time can be seen in the governments  own admission that they received only 12,907 responses out of a total  population of 60 million in the UK.

c. 2,231 of these were postcards which were part of a campaign by an animal  welfare organisation which consisted of some of the questions asked.

d. 9,390 were replies to an on line electronic questionnaire which the circus audiences would have been entirely unaware as the circuses had no contact  with them during this period.

e. The remaining 286 were genuinely sent in by British public.

f. The animal welfare organisations then ran a campaign stating that 94% of the British public want a ban.  Whereas it was 94% of the public who responded to the poll who pressed yes for a ban not 94% of the British public.

g. The 94% of the 12,907 responces would only actually account for 0.02% of the UK population.

Electronic questionnaires have become increasingly popular for those wishing to add supposed extra credence to their argument, campaign or product. They are flawed for many reasons, which I hope will come to light in the next instalment of this series. However, for now I will leave you will a more general overview of the issue with electronic opinion polls, a problem that has its roots back to the earliest recoding of statistics and their use in arguments. At this point, I would like to add, that I am not opposed to the recording and use of statistics, but that it pays to be aware of their misuse. No stranger to seeing numbers used to confuse and convince in the name of nonsense, here is Ben "Bad Science" Goldacre's view on the nefarious use of statistics: The Huff and Public opinion has moved...

UPDATE August 2013

Public Opinion: What Happened to 94.5 per cent?

Astley's Legacy was formed to counter the misinformation and propaganda spread by animal rights activists. As well as fighting the corner for circus animals and their trainers, we are here to promote and celebrate the cultural heritage of circus in general, and especially in the country of its birth - Great Britain. For more information please see our Facebook group
Or follow us on Twitter: @RousterAstley
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Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Animal Rights - Earning at all levels

Series 1928 or 1934 $10,000 bill, ReverseImage via WikipediaFew people who face the Animal Rights movement on a regular basis need to be told that their enemy is a well-funded one. Essentially these organizations and "charities" make their money from campaigning against animal businesses. Whereas animal businesses lose time and money fighting back. It has always been an extremely lopsided affair - a little like the battle between large complex organisms like mammals, birds, reptiles and fish against fleas, mites and tapeworms. One side tries hard to ignore the other, but slowly has its resources sapped by the relentless attack of the other. The other side thrives and prospers on the very existence of its enemy.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Circus Circus! By Roger Helmer MEP

This blog post has been republished by kind permission of Roger Helmer, MEP, East Midlands.  

Amazing coincidence.  Last week I was sitting in Frankfurt airport awaiting my flight to Birmingham, and chatting to our Chief Whip Julie Girling MEP (SW) about the recent Private Member's Bill from Mark Pritchard MP, seeking to outlaw the use of wild animals in circuses.  When blow-me-down but a man on the back-to-back row of seats interrupted to say "I'm Mark Pritchard".  And indeed he was -- returning to the UK via Frankfurt from a meeting in Rome.

Thomas Chipperfield's Lion Training Video Diary (part 1)

To the public at large the training of wild animals in circuses is the biggest kept secret. This is, in no small way, due to the fierce competitiveness of animal trainers of the past. When circuses flourished circus skills, particularly those involving the training of animals were jealously guarded within families. Trainers for hire, like Clement Merk, were even known to put in certain cues with animals he

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Dr Ted Friend on elephants and animal training

Back in 2009 an attempt was made to introduce an AR-inspired guideline on elephant husbandry "Elephant in the Room" as a standard protocol in S.Africa - Prof Ted Friend kindly wrote an opinion for South African circuses. He also cites some interesting studies and papers he has published on circus animal behaviour.

Dr. Ted Friend
3785 W. Villa Maria Rd.
Bryan, Texas 77807 U.S.A.

3 June 2009

Mr B. Madikizela
Director, Regulation and Monitoring
Dept of Environmental Affairs and Monitoring Services
Re: Proposed Restrictions for Elephant Management.

Dear Mr Madikizela

I am a professor of Animal Science at Texas A&M University, at College Station, Texas. A native of New York, I received my B.S. degree at Cornell and my M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at Virginia Tech. I am also a Registered Professional Animal Scientist and a Diplomate of the American College of Applied Behavior  Sciences. The Diplomate certification is the highest certification possible in the Applied Behavior Sciences. I have been conducting behavior and stress-related research on a wide range of species for over 30 years. Much of my research has been on animal welfare-related issues and was stimulated by requests from moderate animal welfare groups. In 1981 I received the Felix-Wankel International Award (Germany) for research promoting animal welfare. In 1986 the Animal Protection Institute (California) honored me as their Humanitarian of the Year.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Mystery of the Muddy Feet: Expose exposed! by Gail Wilmot

Houdini-ElephantImage via WikipediaI only have to look at the Zemanta suggestions for related articles or tag words to see how little a presence positive circus news has on the internet. It is very easy for a politician or a lay person to believe that the majority do, in fact, back a ban on the use of animals in circuses. And yet animal circuses are frequently packed and the very existence of the animal circus in the UK, a country that has perhaps the longest history of opposition to the very business and culture they spawned, proves to a rational person that this is not correct. Unfortunately the shrill and aggressive voice of the minority paints a different picture. As can be seen with the recent "debates" in Parliament, opponents of animal circuses hit out at their target with little fear of repercussion. Circus people are rarely critical thinkers, which is a shame given their cultural heritage including such tricksters as P.T. Barnum and the great grandfather of sceptical activists Harry Houdini. This is why the average circus person or supporter rarely investigating their attackers. If they had have done then perhaps they might have been able to stem the tide of academic pseudo-philosophy, profiteering by so-called charitable organizations and grass-roots fanaticism and terrorism their descendants face today. Gail Wilmot is a critical thinker and just the sort the circus community needs fighting their corner if it is survive. In this small episode that exposes both the blasé way an average opponent of animal circus feels they can attack the business and culture, and how a little research and a lot of patience can turn up the truth... 

Circus Krone Challenges Performing Animal Ban in Austria

Entrance to Circus KroneImage via Wikipedia
 This is the European Circus Association's press release proving the ongoing legal battle in Austria regarding the banning of animals in circuses. This case is cited by the British Conservative Party as the reason why they cannot impose a ban in the UK and it is likely to be illegal. Opponents of animals circuses have tried to dismiss this very real and serious case... 

Circus Krone Challenges Performing Animal Ban in Austria 
Brussels, Belgium 15 June 2011 - The European Circus Association (ECA) today announced the filing of a legal action against Austria to challenge its ban on animals in the circus. ECA President Urs Pilz said. “The right to present well-cared for animals under good welfare conditions in the classical circus in Europe must be established once and for all.”

Democracy? By David Konyot

In contrast, the British House of Commons with...Image via WikipediaDavid Konyot writes the inaugural post for this blog and expresses his dismay at the lack of democracy shown on 23rd June debate in the House of Commons. This was the third time the ban had been discussed in Westminster and despite the hugely one-sided affair, where misinformation and disinformation were thrown around with little care, this debate was the first that saw an honest defender of our position step forward...  

One of the major problems is that our democratically elected MPs seem to forget that fact the minute they enter the House. In the debate over wild animals in circus recently, the lies, hypocrisy and discrimination exhibited in the chamber were quite staggering. A few of the members