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, 25 November 2014

ADI and Gillian McKeith. Smelling the bull-shit

Proof  (if it was ever needed) of the relationship between pseudoscience and the animal rights movement. Animal Defenders International (ADI) are actively promoting the fact that they have invited the 'nutritionist' Gillian McKeith to the viewing of their film Lion Ark a film portraying their 'rescue' of animals from a Bolivian circus.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Are the UK Public Getting Bored of AR Propaganda and Trendy Politics?

Traditional circus culture and industry has been under the threat of animal rights pressure for a long time now. We take the matter very seriously hence the existence of this blog. Rouster is also not ignorant to the fact that the AR philosophy - and we appreciate it has many different mutations - impacts on everyone. This is why we do not just write or post about the battle circus has against PETA, HSUS, ALF, CAPS, ADI, BFF and so on, but also look into the larger picture. Circus is just such a perfect subject to sum up the overall threat of the AR movement for two reasons.

Firstly, it is at the pointy end of their attacks and therefore, it allows a complete exposure of the purpose of the AR movement. Circus has always been a very tempting target for AR fanatics. Being a form of entertainment their very definition puts them in the public eye. Ever since a class divide in entertainment began at the beginning of the 20th century and circus soared in popularity, the snobbish intelligentsia were primed to look down upon variety entertainment. Despite having given so much to culture, circus is only made up of a small minority of people and has virtually no resources to defend itself culturally. The only exception to this rule happened in the US recently when Kenneth Feld, one the world's most successful people in the entertainment industry, decided to stick to his guns and fight AR accusations all the way. He won, but it is unlikely than anyone else in the industry would have resources close to his in order to been able to play the AR movement at their own game. It has always been an asymmetrical battle with circus losing money as it spends time and funds fighting against its critics, and the AR movement gaining money by launching attacks, successful and otherwise, against circuses. We can see how the AR movement behaves and what lengths they will go to, at all levels, to achieve their objectives.

'Bullhook' has been mischaracterized

Stylized illustration depicting a cobra and an...
Stylized illustration depicting a cobra and ankus or elephant goad. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Elephant trainer, Janice Aria, articulates an excellent counter-argument to the AR propaganda being pushed to ban the use of the ankus (aka bull-hook or elephant hook) in elephant handling in the below opinion article for the Richmond Times. Although Rouster applauds the overall message put over in the circus novel and feature, "Water for Elephants", which celebrates what good care can be given to circus elephants, sadly it reinforces the bullhook myth. Her article looks at the facts relating to the care, handling and training of circus elephants, based on her experience and the data available.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Chipperfield Lions and Tigers on North East Farm

We have come to expect an overwhelming amount of bad UK press against wild animals (or any animals) in circuses. This is unsurprising given the fact that attacking animal circuses is a dead cert money spinner for animal rights groups. However, Rouster is pleased to report that the report in the "Evening Express" newspaper last Tuesday presented two impartial articles.

Despite the militant animal rights group, ADI, being quoted and also being wrongly referred to as an animal welfare group, the result fairly positive. The North-East newspaper ran a story on the wintering of Thomas Chipperfield's mixed act of lions and tigers on a farm. The farmer who rented the farm spoke highly of the Chipperfield family and it was confirmed that all had been complied with in accordance with the Dangerous Wild Animal Act 1976.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Circus Mania: Animal Welfare or Animal Rights - the big difference

"I understand why people often harbour an instinctive belief that keeping animals in circuses is cruel or distasteful. I was brought up with that belief. When I began writing a book about the circus, it was the daredevilry of the human performers that I wanted to celebrate. I quickly realised, however, that I would have to visit some of the last remaining circuses with animals because that was where I could get a glimpse into the history of the art form. I went along as a sceptic. Indeed, I went looking for signs of cruelty. But I was determined, too, to speak to the trainers and find out the truth."

Douglas McPherson has written an excellent piece on the distinction between animal welfare and animal rights, using animal circuses as a prime example. Despite articles in The Huffington Post, The Guardian and several books and websites dedicated to this education, the distinction between animal rights and animal welfare is often blurred. McPherson joins other journalists who have noticed how circus is the thin end of the wedge in the argument. Read his very interesting new article here.

And The Moonbeams Kissed The Sea: Our Zoo: Animal Cruelty?

And The Moonbeams Kissed The Sea: Our Zoo: Animal Cruelty?: Was the BBC's "Our Zoo" Guilty of Animal Cruelty? So the BBC produces a series based on the life of George Mottershead and his family’s creation of Chester Zoo.....

Post Script:  The BBC announces no second series of "Our Zoo".   Are the BBC dancing to the tune of the animal-rights activists?

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The RSPCA Admits Support of the Animal Rights Group CAPS

 "...Our friends at CAPS (Captive Animal Protection Society) may also be putting on protests so worth checking with them. Thanks so much!..."
RSPCA Facebook page 8 October 2014

The Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA) has admitted that it supports the Captive Animal Protection Society (CAPS) - an animal-rights group that is committed to not just the closure of animal circuses but to zoos, aquariums and the pet trade.  This is, of course, not news to Rouster who has been reporting the close association the RSPCA has with the animal-right movement for some time.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The "Bear" Facts: ADI and CAPS Defeated by Locals

To the 600 or so attendees of the annual Enstone Show, staged in the beautiful Oxfordshire Cotswolds, the site of three bear cubs playing and frolicking in front of them was a special treat. The experience led most attendees to bombard the local firm supplying the bears, Amazing Animals, with questions regarding bears in general. This is how it has often worked. Audio-visual experiences inspire individuals to seek out information and there are few experiences better than those that are live. “This is not entertainment it is education” were apparently the exact words of one of the lucky attendees who saw the attraction on 23rd August, echoing the words of the Enstone Show’s organizer, Kate Farquar-Thompson. “They’re certainly enjoying themselves” said one of the two newspaper photographers on the day according to an Astley’s Legacy source present on the day. The same source confirmed that both photographers seemed to be very positive about the appearance of the bear cubs and the photographs that have come to light appear to show three very healthy young specimens of the species Ursos arctos actively engaged in healthy activities. 

Sadly for a vocal minority and a sensationalist press outside of this charming, educational and enriching experience took the usual route of decrying the event as if it were some terrible medieval atrocity. The supposed middle market paper, The Daily Mail, which really should give up the pretence and put a big red banner to show its true place amongst the other sensationalist tabloids, carried the headline in its 25th August hard copy edition: Bears paraded in cages for crowd’s amusement. Albania? China? No, a Cotswold village fete (It should be noted that that was a somewhat different tone to the online story they ran ahead). 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Rouster’s Top 10 Hypocritical Anti-Circus Celebrities (Number 2)

Ricky Gervais 

– 28% of the vote


Ricky Gervais began his career as a pop singer, but later reinvented himself as a comedian/chat show host. He was part of a new wave of comedy writers/performers who embraced Steve Coogan and Larry David’s pseudo-realistic brand of humour. Along with long-time writing partner, Steven Merchant, Gervais made his way into mainstream acceptance via “The Office” TV series then “Extras”, “The Ricky Gervais Show”, “Idiot Abroad” and the movie, “Cemetery Junction”.  Most of their work on “The Office” and “Extras” received high critical acclaim, and they both gained awards. Gervais also has toured with several stand-up comedy shows. Gervais went on to create the tragi-comic series “Derek”, the children’s books “Flanimals” and also starred and guest starred in a few feature length US films. 

Rouster’s Top 10 Hypocritical Anti-Circus Celebrities (Number 3)

Simon Cowell 

– 21% of the vote


Simon Cowell was born to a father who was an executive of EMI Music Publishing and a socialite mother. He rose to also become an Artists and Repertoire executive in the music industry. He eventually earned a reputation as a hard, critical and blunt judge with one-liners on the talent show, “Pop Idol”. Much of this onscreen personality, it has been stated, comes from his coaching via one of his former employees, the famous publicist, Max Clifford. Following the success of “Pop Idol”, “American Idol” and “X Factor”, Cowell’s company, Syco went into developing more talent TV shows. 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Zoological Collections and Animal-Rights

An excellent post on the Marine Animal Welfare blog.

Some zoological collections and their staff think there is nothing wrong with supporting or forming alliances with the animal-right movement.  To this end, I commented about this some weeks ago with reference to the sheer gullibility of some zoo and aquarium keepers in voicing their support for the film 'Blackfish'.  

Recently another example of this folly can be observed in an article regarding the Ringlings Brother Circus and a proposed ban on the ankus by Oakland City Council.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Animal Rights: The Funding Gap & Moving The Goal Posts

Much to the angst of the animal-rights lobbyists - such as Animal Defenders International (ADI) and the Captive Animals Protection Society (CAPS) - the UK government seems to have decided its muted ban on performing wild animals in circus is not of enough importance to merit mention in the Queen's Speech, a Parliamentary tradition that lays out forthcoming Parliamentary legislation.  Therefore this suggested ban is unlikely to gain any momentum this side of the 2015 UK General Election.   

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Flying the Flag for Real Critical Thinking

It has been a big concern to Rouster that many in the world of critical thinking have been led by the nose into the murky water of "soft" animal rights. It has been a disappointing creep into a culture that, for the most part, championed rational and logical thinking. In fact, it was TV sceptical magician's Penn and Teller's expose of the world's second largest animal rights group, PETA, that led Rouster to support scepticism as a movement. However, unfortunately many high profile sceptics have allowed their own sense of self-importance and probably an awareness of certain sympathetic political persuasions to pursue the animal rights agenda.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Animal Rights and The Big Lie

Rouster welcomes articles from within the Circus community and we have been sent this piece by Aerial artiste and Painter, Terry Bunton.

In my ever growing historical paintings art business, I use my exhibition events to further campaign to promote and help to preserve Traditional Circus with animals. The feedback I have received has told me in no uncertain terms that the vast majority of the public want to see good quality circus with lots of animal content. I have never had any particularly bad feedback from anti-circus people. Those who have been dubious have been taught the truth informatively and you can guess that the fastest selling paintings of my originals are those of particularly wild and exotic animal acts. So why have the antis seemingly come so  far, when I know the general feeling is support for, and a love of, traditional circus with animals, which is a part of our generic National culture and memory bank? 

I know that queues are often longer on traditional animal circuses, and have often heard people tell me that they do not go to circus anymore, because they think they have all done away with animal acts!

Speaking as a former trapeze artist and as a circus painter, I want to share what I have learned from leading campaigner’s for and against traditional circus, the public in general and my own observations from 25 years working with top circus families in the United Kingdom and across Europe. 

Monday, 10 February 2014

ADI up to their usual "Monkey Business"

Whether you like meaty snacks or not, Rouster urges you to support Rustler's latest "Hunger Monkey" campaign. This brilliantly shot and cleverly conceived commercial depicts a monkey as representative of the nagging hunger feeling a person might feel when they want a snack. The English language is rich in such metaphors and the visual reference of a monkey jumping on a person is quite an accurate idea. Nevertheless, as "Astley's Legacy" regular readers can imagine, the animal rights organizations, particularly ADI, have decided to urge their supporters to boycott the commercial, claiming the animal was trained using cruel methods. Given ADI's championing of veganism it seems rather silly having one of their supporters threaten to boycott a meat product. 

ADI also claim to have video footage they used before to convince Vision Express not to use animals again in its commercials. Vision Express had just used monkeys from the same company, Amazing Animals, in a very effective campaign. ADI's very dubious "victory" appears to be little more than another propaganda point used to justify the millions the organization raises in its emotive campaigns. Vision Express's commercial can be freely viewed online and was not taken down by the company. The idea of using animals to sell spectacles was such a unique concept, that it is unlikely they would feel the need to use animals again (but watch this space, as animals in entertainment are in the very fabric of audiovisual entertainment and far more common than people realize). Despite having supposedly damning evidence, ADI have never revealed it to the general public or sent it to their many media contacts. Given the group's previous campaigns that actively use footage and photographs this seems very suspect. It is interesting to see ADI ignore all requests from less easily convinced citizens to show the footage.