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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Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Rouster's Top 10 Hypocritical Anti-Circus Celebrities (Number 5)

Cover of "I Dreamed of Africa"Cover of I Dreamed of Africa
Kim Basinger – 12% of the vote


Born to showbusiness parents, Basinger began her career as a model, then became a regular on TV ads and finally began her TV acting in the mid-70s. She appeared nude in Playboy to promote non-Eon produced James Bond film “Never Say Never Again” in 1983, in which she starred in her breakout role as a Bond girl. Other film opportunities followed, including the erotic drama “9½ Weeks”, where she starred alongside Mickey Rourke. The film was a commercial flop and received a lukewarm reception from critics, but the film’s cult status on video rental ensured Basinger’s star appeal. She now became known as a cinematic sex symbol for the 1980s, appearing in such comedy romances as “Nadine” and “Blind Date”. She finished off the decade in one of her most famous roles as Vicki Vale, the love interest in Tim Burton’s 1989 blockbuster “Batman”. Her last major success was in 1997’s “L.A. Confidential”, where she won the most prestigious award in her acting career, an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Why are they anti-circus?

Kim Basinger has been a long-time and dedicated supporter of animal rights and, in addition to supporting anti-circus charity PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society), she is a member of the world’s second biggest (and most vocal) animal rights group, PeTA (People for the ethical Treatment of Animals). It is arguable that she is responsible for influencing ex-husband Alec Baldwin in his support for the group. The pair of them used their celebrity status the most during the 1990s to promote animal rights charities and they worked on various campaigns to promote veganism and opposition to the use of fur. At the peak of her career in 1997 Basinger voiced her condemnation of circuses that use animals. She arrived in New Mexico to announce her crusade to save animals and issued this statement to the press:
"These animals are kept in horrific conditions. They're dragged around cities suffering in the name of entertainment."

In addition to the circus mentioned in the link, Basinger was a frequent opponent of Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. 1998 seems have been the year that Basinger’s attention went from PeTA’s anti-fur campaign to its anti-animal circus one. Fur was old news at the time and animal circus controversy was raging across the Atlantic with many animal rights celebrities joining the cause in the USA and the UK. At the time Basinger was arguably at the peak of her career with her comeback success in “L.A. Confidential” and a high profile low-risk campaign such as this might have seemed perfect. She lobbied for Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus to have their licence suspended pending aninvestigation into the death of a 3 year old elephant.  

Why is this celebrity a hypocrite?

The audacity of this particular celebrity is incredible. In 1998, following her critical success in “L.A. Confidential” Basinger took the lead in a multi-million dollar flop called “I Dreamed of Africa”. Perhaps high on her critical success, Basinger imagined she was going to tread in Meryl Streep’s footsteps with her very own “Out of Africa”. She appeared on the September “Today” programme to promote the film and also champion her cause against the use of animals in circuses, particularly elephants, which were the main animal stars of said movie. However, the above linked “People” magazine article lightly mentions Basinger’s hypocrisy. Circus people hit back at the star claiming that the elephants used were from a South African circus, as were all the other animals.

One person’s word against another’s? No, not at all. The elephants used in “I Dreamed of Africa” came from “Brian’s Circus”, today known as “Brian Boswell’s Circus”. Our source from the company explained in detail how the circus lorry bearing the elephants was emblazoned with show’s logo and only a few metres away from Ms Basinger. Basinger saw first-hand how the ankus (aka the “bullhook”) was used to manoeuvre trained elephants and she voiced no complaints on set whatsoever.

The USA’s most famous animal welfare association, The American Humane Association (not to be confused with the radical animal rights group, the Humane Association of the United States), which often stands on the sets of major motion pictures that feature animals to confirm that no animals have been harmed, confirms that circus animals were used throughout the filming of I Dreamed of Africa”.
“Enter Stage Right” noted the apparent double-standards:

Basinger accused of 'Situational Ethics'

There's always a risk involved in loudly championing a cause, as Kim Basinger recently discovered.

Animal trainer Jim Stockwell [actually Stockley] tells New York magazine that the well-known animal-rights activist had no complaints against using elephants for her latest movie, I Dreamed of Africa, even though she's frequently campaigned against the animals' use in circuses.

"I did think that was strange, that an animal-rights activist who feels so strongly about the use of trained animals would agree to do this movie in the first place," Stockwell says.

A spokesman for Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus accused Basinger of "situational ethics," saying that the elephants used in Africa were trained "using the same methods she attacks us for."

As mentioned above, the source for this comes from the New York magazine. Here is what they had to say:


Kim Basinger should remember that elephants have a longer memory than she apparently does. The actress, a militant animal-rights activist who has crusaded to ban elephants and other trained animals from circuses, recently finished shooting a movie in South Africa that stars, among other trained animals . . . circus elephants. In I Dreamed of Africa, based on a true story, Basinger stars as wildlife conservationist Kuki Gallman. For three days while filming in South Africa, she was surrounded by trained elephants and lions from the local Brian's Circus. "I did think that it was strange that an animal-rights activist, who feels so strongly about the use of trained animals, would agree to do this movie in the first place," says Brian's Circus animal trainer Jim Stockley. "I also thought it strange that she never even approached me to inquire about the treatment of our animals."
[Read full report here]

As you will note from both these reports further criticism came from information that a dog was sedated for a scene it shared with Basinger. Apparently the dog, which didn't come from a circus, was trained and perfectly fit to perform the scene without sedation. However, this was for "the actor's benefit" and the sedative was administered by a qualified veterinary surgeon. The production was warned by the trainer that this was contrary to AHA guidelines. Anyway, New York Post satirical cartoonist Sean Delonas pretty much summed up Rouster's feelings on Basinger and her ridiculous defence of ignorance in the following cartoon.

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
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