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

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Friday, 12 August 2011

The Public Voted with their Feet - Brian Boswell Responds!

As reported on here, the British ex-broadsheet newspaper laughingly known as "The Independent" has waged a campaign against UK animal circuses this year. This included a very easy to corrupt online petition and a regular series of one-sided articles that barely pretended to consult the views of those who worked in or supported animal circuses. However, readers on here might be interested to know that South Africa's equivalent, "The Independent on Saturday", has also published material concerning the debate. They published letters from Animal Rights advocates who criticized the South African family circus, "Brian Boswell's Circus". Fortunately this paper is willing to show a greater sense of fairness than its more radical UK cousin and agreed to publish the following letter sent by Brian Boswell himself. This letter is a brilliant demonstration of the argument in favour of animal circuses, addressing its critics and educating those who occupy the vast middle ground in the facts surrounding the debate... 

The Editor
The Independent on Saturday

via email


Regarding the letters you published on 30 July 2011 concerning my circus.

There are people who oppose the keeping of any animals in captivity.  Twice during our Durban season we had a group of less than 30 Animal Rights protesters outside our venue. Measured against the many thousands of people who attended our shows during July, it would seem the protestors are in the minority.  Although my circus is licenced, has permits, regular inspections by animal welfare and our own vets, nothing we can ever do will change the minds or the strongly held views of the protesters.
The public voted with their feet.

Diane Seymour's letter asks "what scientific studies?" : In 1990 Dr Marthe Kiley-Worthington (an expert in animal behaviour) was commissioned by the British RSPCA and the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare  (UFAW) to carry out an independent scientific study of circus animals, her report "Animals in Circuses and Zoos, Chiron's World?" is available online. Her conclusion: "The welfare of the animals in British circuses, as judged by physical and psychological criteria, is not as a rule inferior to that of other animal husbandry systems such as in zoos, private stables and kennels." She continues saying that “It is irrational to take a stand against circuses on grounds that the animals in circuses necessarily suffer, unless they are to take the same stand against zoos, stables, race horses, kennels, pets and all other animal-keeping systems.”

Dr Kiley-Worthington visits our circus and works with us to continually improve our standards.

In 2007 the UK's Dept for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) published the findings of an Academic Panel convened by the British Government which concluded with similar findings:  "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." The Radford Report: Wild Animals in Circus (UK) by the Circus Working Group 2007 is available on the DEFRA website online.

In America, Professor Ted H. Friend at Texas A&M University has published many scientific papers on circus animals and says " My experience with circuses in North America concurs with the conclusions of Marthe Kiley-Worthington's 1990 study."

Animal welfare at circuses is not a complicated issue. Welfare at circuses is verifiably good -- portable stabling and caging is purpose-made, the animals have exercise paddocks and simple environmental enrichments. Circus visitors see and approve our facilities, Circus people listen to, and act upon, the practical advice of zoo vets and animal behaviourists.

Many activist groups, including the more respectable organisations, have an underlying agenda. They speak of 'animal welfare' when in fact they are selling 'animal rights'. The two philosophies are totally opposite; animal rights seeks to end all contact between humans and animals - no more farm animals, no more pets. In spite of the soft sell 'animal welfare' label, animal rights is an extreme, hard-line political philosophy. It is not what the public would wish to support when they put their coins in a collecting-tin.

(Brian Boswell's Circus)
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