Rouster welcomes, in principle, the findings of the Leveson report released yesterday by Lord Justice Leveson.
We are made up of a group of professionals firmly rooted in the core values of democracy. Consequently, we support the freedom of the press. Equally, however, we believe that the circus industry has been denied a fair voice in the media for too long. It is our aspiration to change this.
Circus has suffered for many years against intrusions and unfair reporting by the press. The Alistair Campbell era - a time when his political party had just received £1m from the Political Animal Lobby - saw tremendous persecution of animal circuses by the press and the meteoric rise to respectability of certain animal rights groups. The Daily Mirror editor at the time was Piers Morgan, who later became embroiled in several scandals that prompted the original Leveson Inquiry. There was an active campaign against animals in circus and their paper presented the majority of the negative publicity against animal circuses during the final years of the last millennium. Morgan readily accepted "evidence" fed to them by Animal Defenders International and not long afterwards he was sacked for publishing hoax photographs of British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners.
Only recently Judge David Chinery condemned the actions of the British press and media for the way they ruined innocent lives and put people in danger in their reckless quest to sensationalize the trial of Bobby and Moira Roberts. Primed and urged on by an animal rights group that admitted in court to employing an extremist (with a previous conviction for possession of a firearm with intent to kill or cause serious harm) to obtain their evidence, various papers and both ITV and the BBC spouted emotive and one-sided sensationalist stories that appear to have incited a lot of hatred towards the Roberts family. The Guardian newspaper reported on the judge's criticism of the way the media and the animal rights groups, ADI, had treated the whole affair.
"Chinnery criticised ADI for releasing the footage – it appeared first in the Daily Mail – to the media before any prosecution began. He said: "This has resulted in a great deal of coverage both on the internet and elsewhere, which had the potential to jeopardise the right to a fair trial."The judge continued: 'This couple have been tried by the public who have only the footage of the cruelty to the animal upon which to make a judgement. This has resulted in personal vilification of both of the defendants both by members of the public and from my own observations by members of the press.
He said he had been forced to ask the police to be at Northampton crown court to ensure the couple's safety and added: "The court staff here have received a number of emails containing some serious threats directed at the defendants. Those have been referred to the police, who are currently investigating them, and I have also asked for the comments by some members of the public on Facebook and other sites to be investigated as prima facie they constitute an offence."
It might be too late for animal circuses who have garnered an unfair reputation in the British press based on the fact that they fight an asymmetrical battle against animal rightists who have become schooled in the art of feeding press desperate for an emotive and sensationalist story.
Our hope is that the recommendations of Lord Justice Leveson will secure more balanced and factual reporting of circus. Rouster looks forward to working with the media in a renewed spirit of partnership.
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 https://www.facebook.com/groups/223570581049199