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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Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The General Public & Animal Circuses

English: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Ci...
English: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus train in Safety Harbor, Florida, (U.S.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Often the debate is waged over whether the British and the Irish are more culturally akin to their European neighbours or whether they have more in common with their American cousins. Whichever you choose, there is little denying that the British invention of the traditional circus is still very much a part of the culture of Europe and America. Just across the channel, in the great nation of France, traditional circus is so loved that several large shows traditionally stand on the same ground at Christmas knowing that the general public will come to see all of them. Great circus families like Gruss and Pinder are household names and powerful brands. The great Cirque d'hiver ("Winter Circus") building still stands to this day and entertains packed houses on a regular basis.
Coming out of the south of France and into the Principality of Monaco and you will find that Circus has a very serious royal patronage. The Monte Carlo Circus Festival has been a well-attended, high class, annual festival and competition since 1976. Many wild animal acts have won the coveted silver and gold clowns over the years, and to this day are met by standing ovations. The festival was started by Prince Rainier III and is still going strong under Prince Albert II and Princess Stephanie. Most Italians know the Orfei circus family like the UK know the Beckhams, and other traditional circus families like the Tognis also enjoy similar celebrity status.

Spain, Portugal and most Latin countries have long traditions of integrating animal circuses into the very fabric of their respective cultures. But let us not stop in Western Europe. The level of esteem Circus Knie and Nock are held in their native Switzerland verges on that of royalty. Germany has produced many wild animal trainers and to this day the great Circus Krone exhibits performances from the great British lion trainer, Martin Lacey Jnr. The list goes on and so do the countries, far out of Europe and into Russia and Asia.

Meanwhile, the USA still has Ringling Brother's Barnum and Bailey Circus and its three units touring much of America and into Mexico. "The Greatest Show on Earth" has been a huge touring attraction for well over a century now and it is not alone. Many traditional animal circuses sell out to packed audiences all across the continent. They have become part of what is often referred to as "Americana".

So, what of Britain and Ireland? As we know the history of the modern traditional circus began here with Philip Astley in 1768.
Unfortunately the UK is also the birthplace of the animal rights movement. The "Nation of Animal Lovers", it would appear, is just as easily swayed towards militant causes that profess to be protecting or defending animals as they are enchanted by the unique bond of human and non-human animal that is demonstrated in the circus ring. Animal rightists, quasi-animal welfare groups and their opportunistic puppet politicians would have you believe that their anti-animal circus view is in harmony with the majority of mainstream society. If you were to read the many comments posted up underneath online newspaper articles you might very well be convinced by this belief. There are any number of vitriolic verbal attacks aimed at the whole concept of animals being anywhere near a circus ring. This all seems to be backed up a poll that is used to "prove" that 95% of the general public do not want animals in circuses. The truth about this poll, as revealed by Rouster a while ago, is very different (read the full article)

However, we know that this use of the appeal to popularity argument is a desperate attempt to put some weight behind the intended ban on wild animals in circus in 2015. After all, attempts to prove the anti-animal circus argument using science has been dashed every time a truly independent investigation has been conducted. The dangerous-sounding "ethical" argument (read the full article) has also been dealt with on here and seems to reflect the idea that the majority of the general public believe - for whatever reason - that it is unethical to use wild animals in circuses.

Animal rightists enjoy arguing a rather odd case against animal circuses. They say that the general public do not want them and yet also put over the idea that animals are only seen as a profitable commodity in a circus. Which animal rights argument is it? Either animal circuses are outmoded institutions struggling against the tide of public opinion or they are greedily raking in the dough as the masses pay to see animal exploitation? (An argument for another day perhaps...)

For now I would like to leave you with an example of how Peter Jolly's Circus is fairing. This is a British small traditional animal circus that has successfully fulfilled all of the new strict circus regulations (set by DEFRA under veterinary consultation) and exhibits animals that will be banned under the intended legislation.This picture was taken outside the show's booking office within the last two weeks:

And what about Ireland then, which faces similar pressure? Duffy's Circus is run by a long-standing traditional Irish circus family. They have the sheer audacity to have a cage act featuring lions and tigers. Surely this "outmoded" practice should be drawing riots and the whole show boycotted if the vast majority of the general public are in opposition. These screen shots were taken earlier this month:

Great Britain and Ireland certainly do not have anything like the number of animal circuses that they did even a decade ago. However, Rouster argues that this has more to do with the direct pressure of an aggressive, militant and well-funded minority of extremists. Circus people are also in a minority compared to most other cultures and spend most of their time trying to make a living rather than fighting their corner (unlike many other art-forms they have never enjoyed any form of state sponsorship or grants). This has made them the perfect targets for the animal rights movement. Many circus families have caved into the prejudice that convinced councils not to allow animal circuses (exhibiting wild or domestic species) to work there. I do not need to provide the intelligent reader with a history lesson to remind them what happens when militant extremists have been able to successfully attack minority groups (read the full article). During the debate in the House of Commons that set forward the motion that could result in the intended ban, one MP told us that this ban was not against domestic animals in circuses. You need not look far to see that every group that has opposed the use of Wild animals in circus has their sights set on Domestic animals next, as well as zoos, safari parks, animals in film-work and animals used in sporting events...

Peta vs Animals

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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  1. Thanks for sharing wonderfull General Public & Animal Circuses.It is just awesome.

  2. Thank you for commenting and your support. Please help spread awareness of our cause.

  3. I have worked on the road for many years working with different shows in uk..Horsetrainer by trade I have never seen animals in such great shape after a long winter.