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"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, 14 July 2013

Born Free Foundation's Lack of Perspective

On 23rd June 2013 “The Sunday Mirror” reported that in the past 20 years wild African elephants have gone from a population 1.3million to less than 400,000.

This population decrease is mainly put down to poaching. The report portrayed the story of the Born Free Foundation’s rangers who put their lives on the line to protect these animals. What the report doesn’t mention is the fact that over those same 20 years the “Born Free Foundation” has received more than £20,000,000 in donations.

Many will remember the story of Anne the elephant. There was the court case and the alarming details brought up about the animal rights group, (and BFF “friends”[i]) Animal Defenders International.

With the media heavily involved, Anne the elephant ended up living in Longleat Safari Park, which satisfied the press that sponsored the move and appeased all but the most radical of animal rightists. However, few realize that there had been previous campaigns against the Roberts ownership of Anne.

In 2005 “The Mirror” raised a reported £20,000 in just one week for the Born Free Foundation and the Roberts family received piles of hate mail after an article was published criticizing their keeping of Anne the elephant.

Other than the Roberts contacting DEFRA for advice and seeking the independent opinion of a vet, nothing resulted from this article. The vet confirmed Anne had slight arthritis and should stay within her family surrounding, which she did until 2011. Anne had retired from performing in the circus.
However, the £20,000 funds that were intended for the purposes of BBF transporting Anne to a sanctuary were never subsequently discussed. One might ask why these funds were not allotted to their anti-poaching mission in 2005, when this reported wholesale slaughter was taking place.

There is a curious lack of perspective going on here. Virginia McKenna, the founder of BFF has long had circuses and zoos in her sights and seems more concerned in hounding a single circus that housed a retired elephant than tackling the far larger issue of stopping the poaching of wild elephants in Africa.
In 2011 BFF wrote on the website, “We are absolutely delighted that Anne the elephant was, on Sunday 3rd April, successfully moved to Longleat Safari Park”. They claimed a degree of responsibility for the move along with their ADI friends, later involved in the prosecution of the Roberts’ case.[ii]

Rouster wonders just how “delighted” BFF were about the move taking place. Today they use spectacle of Anne at the safari park as a means for drawing attention to their anti-poaching campaign.[iii]

However, they never did get to transport the elephant to a sanctuary of their choosing. The move was one organized between Longleat Safari Park and the Roberts family with some support from The Sun newspaper. One has only to look back a few decades to the creation of this particular safari park and its many subsequent clones to see a less than delighted Ms McKenna voicing her opinion against the whole concept of safari parks.[iv]Maybe this is because they were created in the UK by a circus man, Jimmy Chipperfield.



[ii] Despite Mr Roberts receiving a guilty by proxy verdict, the judge severely reprimanded ADI for the way it had handled the entire operation and its cynical, political and financial motivations, not to mention the fact that their "undercover operative" was a man with a criminal record for possession of a firearm, with intent to kill!

[iii] Interestingly, this is an argument responsible animal trainers in the audiovisual industries use – these animals in our care are ambassadors for their wild cousins, raising awareness for their preservation. 

[iv] “My Wildlife” by Jimmy Chipperfield details McKenna’s opposition to safari parks.

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
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