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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Sunday, 24 February 2013

Animal Defenders International : the real elephant in the room.

This month - and after much detailed planning - Longleat Safari Park announced detailed plans for the proposed new Elephant Sanctuary. 

The announcement comes at an appropriate time particularly with the animal-rights group Animal Defenders International (ADI) recently publishing a mean-spirited, vitriolic and ill-informed attack on Longleat and their treatment of the former circus elephant Anne.

Under the head-line: " ADI welcomes news of hoped-for improvements for Anne at Longleat" the activists wasted no time in demonstrating not only its clear ignorance of the animal-husbandry of elephants, but also it's evident contempt for Longleat. A facility that Jan Creamer (Chief Executive of ADI) had previously stated was a: "a place of safety" for Anne the elephant.   

Now the situation appears very different with such statements that:

"... Longleat is not primarily an animal welfare organisation. It is a multi-million pound entertainment company whose main focus is making money from visitors."

It is somewhat ironic that ADI has the effrontery to state that Longleat is not an animal welfare organisation when ADI itself is clearly not an animal welfare organisation. ADI are a political, animal-rights lobbying group formed off the back of an anti-vivisection lobby group that avoids charitable status as it would preclude them from many of their investigative and lobbying activities.

Furthermore, ADI were not impressed when the evidence of elephant expert and veterinary Jonathan Cracknell of Longleat was used in the defence of Bobby Roberts and churlishly commented:

"The statements in the media from Longleat staff (which Roberts’ subsequently used in court, in his defence) where they defended Roberts’ circus handling practices, such as “Hats off to Bobby he did a good job”, and that if Anne survived Roberts “must have done something right” made it impossible for ADI to continue working with Longleat."

They also decided to criticise Longleat for their handling of Anne in raising the use of the popular bête noire of the animal-rights industry: the elephant handling tool the ankus or "bullhook".   In a second and more recent diatribe, ADI claim that Longleat made a statement maintaining:

“We also acknowledge concerns regarding the historical trauma prior to her safe life here at Longleat and the potential for her to associate this with ankus use. We have no evidence to show that ankuses have ever been used on Anne and we have confirmed this with reputable welfare groups that have monitored her over the last two decades."

Unfortunately, ADI conveniently do not link to the Longleat statement,or to any official release, so its authenticity cannot be verified.   However, Anne is currently kept under "open contact" conditions which require tools like an ankus.  ADI would like her to be worked under "protected contact".  But for Anne being a lone animal who has always had direct human contact this would seem to actually work against her psychological welfare.  

ADI have, of course, made no secret of wanting to get control of the ownership of Anne.  Primarily so that she can be shipped overseas to their friends in the animal-rights industry who run wild animal "sanctuaries"; the idea that she and other "rescued" wildlife should go to a zoological park is a complete anathema to such ideologues. Despite the fact that such sanctuaries are actually using identical husbandry standards developed in zoos and also historically in circuses. More background on this debate can be found HERE.

Fortunately for Anne, she is now owned by Specialist Wildlife Services a non-profit voluntary organisation which assists in the re-homing of non-domesticated, non-native wild animals who now have the ultimate say in Anne's welfare.

ADI's recent comments really do seem to be an act of deluded desperation, but come as no surprise. 

The group is still clearly smarting after they were very effectively rebuked by  the judge in their handling of the case of cruelty they brought against Bobby Roberts and the treatment of his last remaining circus elephant.  District Judge David Chinery was clearly not impressed by either ADI's methods or their motives. 

The simple fact that ADI secretly recorded the abuse of Anne, unbeknown to Mr Roberts by one of his stable grooms and allowed many weeks mistreatment to transpire while carefully editing the videos for release to the press rather than immediately going to either Mr Roberts or the authorities.  This in itself speaks volumes for ADI's real agenda and it's true regards for Anne's welfare. But that is, of course, the real elephant in the room.

 Update 1 May 2013

 Reproduced from Ray Dolling's article in "Panthera" magazine.  March 2013
 The rise and rise of Animal Defenders

Animal Defenders International has come a long way since it was formed in 1990 by Janet Creamer. She had been working for the National Anti-Vivisection Society (formed in 1875) first as a volunteer and then as an employee, since 1969 when she was 17. She used her skills as a graphic designer to produce the society's magazine and began giving interviews and talks before being appointed Chief Executive. She then set up Animal Defenders and moved the two groups from their small office in Harley Street to Goldhawk Road in West London. Further expansion has seen another move, to an expensive suite of offices in Westminster - Millbank Tower - with a staff of 15 and an annual income of nearly £1.5m mainly derived from donations and legacies. Animal Defenders carefully conceals its status as a limited company whose directors include Ms. Creamer and her husband Tim Phillips.

 The pair met when he was running his own small animal rights group, the Central Animal Liberation League with a weekly magazine 'Turn Point' and married in 1996. He was inspired by watching Victor Schonfield's documentary 'The Animals Film' on Channel 4 in 1981. Within two weeks he had become a vegetarian, left his banking job, purchased a camera and began going undercover to capture footage of animals in laboratories and circuses. He has never denied being the cameraman responsible for the images included in the BBC programme 'Here and Now' which showed animals at the Chipperfield winter quarters, startled by being disturbed in the early hours of the morning, looking distressed. The resulting complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Commission were upheld.

 At the suggestion in 1996 of the late American animal rights activist Pat Derby, Animal Defenders opened a branch on Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles and adopted the epithet 'Animal Defenders International'.

 The operation of ADI is obviously a successful collaboration for Mr and Mrs Phillips enabling them to live on River Mount the private road in leafy Walton-on-Thames known in the 'gin and jag belt' as 'Millionaires' Row'.
Further links of interest:

 Know your enemy - Animal Defenders International

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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