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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Tuesday, 29 October 2013

On Your Bike: The RSPCA Joins CAPS

 One thing is clear, that through the stupidity of the UK government, the RSPCA and its friends in the animal-rights movement feel they now have a license to attack any form of animal display that does not meet its narrow, animal-rights agenda.
In a recent blog we exposed the hypocrisy of the UK government in its rejection of any form of compromise as to what species of wild animals could be used in a circus if, or  when, the proposed ban of wild animals comes into play in 2015.

Rouster made the valid point that the current legislation is not clear as to what is (or is not) a wild animal from definitions provided by
such legislation as the Dangerous Wild Animals Act and the Zoo Licensing Act

As we pointed out, there are many animals that may not be wild and/or indigenous to the UK but who do not require any form of licensing and are freely available as pets or farm animals.  Yet these same animals would be banned from the circus ring, but not other animal entertainment or leisure events. 

Recent events seem to suggest that the governments position could be seen as giving succour to
the animal-rights movement and its supporters by actually extending 'de facto bans' of certain types of animals appearing in the public arena that are not classified as domentic, but can be freely kept by members of the public without any inspections, license, or even experience required.

To this end, The Daily Mirror ran a story of a 'shocked' RSPCA condemning a trained raccoon appearing at the 'Pet Expo' in the Blue Water Shopping Mall; raccoons are not classed as Dangerous Wild Animals and can be obtained and held in the UK freely as pets.

Labelling the raccoon's performance as a " deeply saddening spectacle" with the animal "forced to perform"; a standard claim by animal-rights groups along with various other weasel words such as "demeaning".  Of course, the RSPCA did not really
know what was taking place at this event as it was not there!  It was making a judgement by photographs on the events web site which is hardly fair or objective.

The raccoon is actually 'Melanie' with her trainer Kimberly Unger who appeared on the television show 'Britain's Got Talent'.  It is also clear from the photograph that the trainer has a reward in her hand and the animal is far from being 'forced to perform'.

In addition, as for the emotive comment: "appeared to be tethered to a red rope" if this were a dog, it would be called a lead and there would be no concern.  Further, this in its self demonstrates the trainers concern for the safety and welfare of the animal in a public place; putting your dog on a lead in such environments is something any sensible dog owner would do.

The RSPCA then went on to make their standard claims of suffering, without presenting any evidence what so ever.  Disappointingly, this has now become a default response from the once respected animal-welfare organisation, that has clearly lost any objectivity in defining animal suffering.  Instead, reaching once again for ideological opinions from the likes of Peter Singer
an honorary vice-president of the RSPCA and the father of the modern animal rights movement.

Curiously, in the article, the RSPCA lets its guard down by almost verbatim quoting our vegan loving friends at the Captive Animals Protection Society (CAPS) regarding the use of reindeer in Christmas event that could "very likely to lead to their suffering".  CAPS currently have a campaign on this issue reported in our blog 'CAPS Cancels Christmas: Rudolf's Redundant'.

As always, the RSPCA make claims of suffering and cruelty but seem unwilling to take these matters forward with prosecution of the owner of the raccoon which could be easily made under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act.  The RSPCA  probably knows that it has little chance of the case being accepted or if making it into a court room, it would fail because clearly the owner has been neither negligent, or cruel.

However, one thing is clear, that through the apparent stupidity of the UK government, the RSPCA and its friends in the animal-rights movement now feel they have a license to attack any form of animal display which does not fit in with its extreme, animal-rights agenda.


Here is a video of Kimberly training 'Melanie'.  The raccoon is seen to be trained by positive reinforcement with reward; a clicker can be clearly heard in the video telling 'Melanie' she is about to get her reward.

Public Statement made by Kimberly Unger owner of Melanie Raccoon
Facebook - 29 October 2013

It's quite obvious that everyone is truly uneducated about who I am or how I work with Melanie! I have spent my entire life with animals; acquired a Bachelor's degree in Biology; a Master's degree in Equine Science; spent years studying natural equine behaviour with an internationally renowned equine behaviourist, did birdsong behaviour research with a renown professor in this field; took numerous classes in animal behaviour while at college/university; trained my dog to be both a certified therapy dog and Reading Education Assistance dog to take her to hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and libraries; cared for ill baby birds; worked with horses, parrots, and multiple other animal species; cared for all of the animals while getting my biology degree, etc. I purchased Melanie Raccoon as a baby. I emphatically believe that raccoon do NOT make good pets. Because I have a very comprehensive background working with animals, I undertook the challenge of acquiring a raccoon. I was even going to pursue PhD and study raccoon intelligence. I NEVER force Melanie to do something that she does not want to do. I have socialized Melanie from Day 1. I use clicker training, a form of secondary positive reinforcement, to teach Melanie certain behaviours. I clearly have an understanding of this training method because I did do an entire Master's thesis on the subject! By teaching Melanie different tasks, it not only enhanced her mental capability, but it also strengthened our already amazing bond. Melanie readily participates in certain behaviours just for the enjoyment of the activity itself. One photo says nothing! It's like a sound bite. For instance, I will present her with her scooter, and she will ride around the room on it! When I say "good girl," she will start clapping! Raccoons have the intelligence of a 3 or 4 year old child. To put them in an enclosure like one in a zoo gives them no way to be mentally stimulated--but just pace around. I give her interactive foraging toys, take her for daily walks, etc. Melanie is the most amazing animal, and I treat her as though she is my daughter. She has more toys than most children! She sleeps with me at night. I spend every single day with her at home. The time, patience, and dedication that I give to little Melanie is what has made her the most wonderful animal that she truly is!!!! Raccoons should NOT be kept as pets because they require so much space, mental stimulation, etc. If anyone saw my presentation at Bluewater, they would see how I educated the audiences about Melanie and raccoons in general. I HAVE both the knowledge, time, dedication, etc. to give to Melanie. I also want to educate the public that raccoons are extremely intelligent and deserve respect. Raccoons are pests in the USA and many other countries. They are killed for no reason. I want to change the perception of raccoons! I merely teach Melanie different tasks because doing so stimulates her both mentally and physically. Believe me, if a raccoon does not want to do something, it will not do it! As a vegan for nearly 20 years, a true animal lover, and person with a vast scientific and animal-related background, I would NEVER do something that harmed Melanie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please keep your uneducated and judgemental comments to yourselves!


CAPS Cancels Christmas: Rudolf's Redundant

The wild animal circus ban, or when is a wild animal not a wild animal?

RSPCA: Corporate Cannibals?

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


  1. Thank you for being insightful to recognize that Melanie is not being mistreated. People make judgments on what little information they see and it gets taken quite out of context.

    A good friend of mine works with raccoons and t's ironic that people are eager to kill them. However when someone like Kimberly Unger is willing to treat Melanie like a beloved family member instead of another curio item to cage but interact on a level that stimulates the animal, that's a person who truly cares about the well being of their pet. There are so many dog and cat owners who never would even go to this extreme!

  2. Simon Cowell is a big supporter of PETA who are opposed to an animal being used in that way.
    Let's not forget that dancing dog which PETA themselves used in an advertising campaign.