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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Monday, 24 June 2013

The Operation was a success, but the patient died

Death in the animal kingdom, although a cruel reality, has always been unpleasant for those who possess a strong affinity with beings of another species.

Last week, on the 14th of June, we were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Thandora, a female African Elephant who, earlier this year, made headlines around the world in the most recent attempt the reintroduce a zoo animal back into the wild.

Sources say that Thandora was a native of the Kruger National Park and, between the ages of 4 and 5, was brought to Bloemfontein Zoo after being orphaned in a cull.
It was at her new home and over 20 years later, because of her wild birth, she was selected for the attempt of being reintroduced back into her natural habitat. This was accepted by Bloemfontein Zoo after pressure was put on the zoo by the NSPCA.
This charity, much like its British counterpart, publicly advocates animal welfare whilst covertly pushes an animal rights agenda. The involvement of this group, it would seem, marked the beginning of the end for her.

After an eventful "rehabilitation" - which involved Thandora breaking free from the makeshift enclosure, or "boma", she was being kept in to go in search of her home at the zoo - she was released. A month later, of her own free will, she shunned the herd of cows and a calf that the team behind her relocation were encouraging her to join with and instead, showed a keen interest in a group of bulls.

Confident that their charge was safe with this herd, the team began to visually monitor her activities less and less, potentially bringing the rehabilitation process to a close.

Less than 4 weeks later, it was reported that after a 36 hour search, Thandora had been found dead and that a post mortem had been carried out.

Mark Rutherford, owner of the Gondwana Game Reserve where Thandora was released, believes she may have succumbed to botulism.

Astonishingly the NSPCA are unrepentant or apologetic for this entire tragic incident!

The death of this animal, that was perfectly well and living a healthy existence in Bloemfontein Zoo, is entirely on their hands and yet their response is very much a case of "The operation was a success, even though the patient died".

The procedure they performed is very much in line with Born Free and other pseudo-animal welfare and animal rights groups. They use a single, larger-than-life, sympathetic and exotic animal figure in a poster, press and social media campaign to raise large sums of money in order to secure said animal's "rehabilitation".

Animal is released into the wild; Animal dies; no-one talks about any remaining money, as the next project gets under-way.

As Christie Wilcox wisely pointed out  in her "Scientific American" article,"Bambi or Bessie: Are wild animals happier?", the life of a wild animal is far from idyllic and only one of the "Five Needs" they are protected by in captivity, can be met in the wild.

As our readers will be aware, this is not the first, nor the most controversial, failure in the world of pseudo-conservation.

Keiko, the wild caught orca and star of the 1993 feel-good movie, FREE WILLY, was a nothing but a tragic victim of his own fame. After the success of the film, which was used as animal rights propaganda against aquariums, the Free Willy Keiko Foundation was set up with the intention of raising funds to have Keiko released back into his native waters off Iceland.

In 1998, he was moved to a rehabilitation pen in Icelandic waters, where the long training process took place. Here he stayed, until, in 2002, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) took over the care for Keiko, and almost immediately released their newly acquired mascot. This move sealed the animal's fate.

Keiko ignored the presence of orca pods and followed ships heading for Norway, where he spent the last few months of his life seeking human interaction and relying on their care, until, on the 12th of December 2003, he died. No official report was released revealing the cause of death, but his caretaker's claim he likely died of pneumonia.

The project spanned over a period of 5 years, is estimated to have cost 20 million US dollars and achieved nothing, except ending the suffering of an animal that was cruelly taken from human care.

In our article entitled "Born Free Killers", the author explores the story of Elsa the lioness, whose death at the age of 5 is still shrouded in mystery, and the reports of her and her cubs having to be relocated because of their attacks on livestock.

Further reading linked to the article also looks into the allegations of cover-ups by the Kenya game department regarding the possibility that Elsa had and was teaching her cubs to stalk and kill humans.

"Ken Randal was not dreaming when he was shown the half eaten body of the game scout, and was told by the other game scout that he could not shoot the lioness, as it was Elsa that they were supposed to protect."

"The Kenya game department did not want the truth known, as they were afraid the money coming in from Elsa’s fame would dry up."

A very haunting notion, to say the least. Let us hope that that Thandora isn't made a martyr of the animal rights movement like her two celebrity predecessors.

Finally, animal-rights groups have claimed that the above cited release projects are no different from the reintroduction projects that many zoos, quite rightly, aspire to. However, this assumption is erroneous.

Zoos do not as a rule release long-term captive animals back into the wild and certainly not in a desire to enhance their welfare. Reintroduction of animals from zoo breeding projects are designed to enhance the survival of specific endangered species in the wild as a conservational tool.

These animals are normally introduced in groups and the welfare of an individual is not as important as the viability of the group. Clearly, all possible efforts are made to ensure the environment that animals are introduced to is safe, but there can be no guarantee that some individuals in this group may not die due to disease or predation.  IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature have very clear guidelines for the reintroduction of species.

Thandora, Keiko and Elsa where not at their time of release considered endangered species and their release served no conservational purpose.  Moreover, their release to the wild did not enhance their welfare any more than them being placed in the care of a well run zoo or aquarium. These projects are sadly, well meaning (at best), but naive. Or at worst, designed to cynically promote the political aspirations of, and to coerce funding for, the animal-rights movement.

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.

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  1. RIP Thandora and Keiko, and down with peta!
    People Eating Tasty Animals: Stupid rotten bullies for animals since 1980

  2. P.E.T.A. is a bulls**T bunch of misinformed Idiots that want to cause problems for everyone. They need to clean there act up first before pointing the finger at anyone else.