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.
Secondly, the argument against circus shows us the full absurdity of the AR philosophy. As Jamie Foster so eloquently put it in his article for the Western Morning News, "the prejudices that they suffer are amongst the last socially acceptable, thoughtless bigotries it is possible to openly express" (read the full article here). Travelling animal circuses have been subject to two very thorough scientific investigations. The former was commissioned by the RSPCA, who have been opposed to the use of (wild) animals in circuses throughout their existence. The latter was an independent report that was commissioned by a political party that had made it clear in their manifesto from the beginning that they were seeking a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses. Both reports came back with the conclusion that there was no scientific basis to ban the use of wild animals in circuses. In principle circuses can meet the levels of animal welfare expected by any institution that uses captive animals. Yet in the face of such empirical data, the AR movement tries to push on with its opposition to the use of animals in circuses. They will often coat their arguments in welfare criticism, but once it has been proven that all travelling, husbandry and training concerns meet with the Five Freedoms now enshrined in the Animal Welfare Act 2007 and how we have come to universally determine humane animal treatment, their argument is always shown up for its true nature: AR opposes the principle of using animals in entertainment. That means no animal sporting events whatsoever, no pet shows, no educational animal displays, no art exhibitions featuring live animals, no animals in television, film, still photography campaigns or internet viral videos. They view it all as exploitation. Exploitation tends to be a rights issue and it is an incredibly difficult one to define when you get to humans, let alone our non-human cousins.
However, as time has moved on and the UK has seen transparent government regulations put into place the vast middle ground of circus debate, where one would assume moderation and rationality rule, sees little point in wasting time on an issue that has been properly addressed. These regulations were welcomed in by all responsible wild animal circuses - there were two in the UK when a ban was being considered. Many people involved in animal training want the opportunity for their business to be properly inspected by independent scientific parties. Given the ridiculously small number of animal circuses in the UK, let alone those that use zoo-type animals, most people would agree this is a rather silly issue to pursue. There are far weightier matters, which brings us onto another fairly recent example.
The Green Party have had every opportunity to show themselves not to be just another political party. They have even promoted themselves as being the only real opposition party. This is all fine and dandy if your opposing views have credence. Unfortunately this doesn't seem to be the case for the Greens who seem to base most of their policies and theories on impractical trendy hippy middle-class ideology. As Tim Stanley put it in this article he wrote for the Spectator, "Such is their incompetence that the Greens often hurt the very causes they push. While I was staggered to find that I might face a £50,000 fine if I put something plastic in the paper-only recycling bin outside my house, I was amused to discover that most people just ignore the warnings and dump away — with the result that Green Brighton now ranks 302nd out of 326 councils for its recycling record."
In a move that is reminiscent of Ian Botham's recent open letter to a misguided RSPB, who have backed certain forms of alternative energy to bolster their own environmental image at the direct cost of causing wide-scale destruction of the very birds they are supposed to protect, Stanley goes on to say of the Greens, "Not for them the countryside of traditional farming and hunting, nor the ramshackle urbanity of Georgian Brighton. No — they dream of an integrated eco/bio/renewable future of steel and glass that will render the inefficient past obsolete. Why else have they welcomed the construction of a huge Wind Farm off the Sussex coast? Covering more than 60 square miles, the forest of offshore turbines will number over 100 and stand 700ft tall. The only upside is that they might kill all the gulls — leaving any uncollected rubbish to rot unmolested." Showing more of their Animal Rights agenda, Tim Stanley described a Meat-Free Monday the Green Party council imposed on its workers. This resulted in an unpredicted dustbin strike.
The Greens could be looking for active science-based solutions to solve environmental issues. They could be planting themselves firmly on the side animal welfare, which is a proven method for improving the lives of animals. Instead they act like publicity hungry jerk reaction MPs that tried to bring in a ban against the use of wild animals in circuses. They seem to support every quack trendy theory that passes itself off as being "environmentally friendly". They have the same attitude towards animal rights. In fact, they seem to support it rather than animal welfare. Let us not forget that David Icke - yes, the man who has made a career telling everyone that the world is being run by reptoid hybrids, originating from another planet and supports almost every single conspiracy theory you have ever heard of - was once an MP for the Green Party. And, yes, Mr Icke made it clear in front of cameras that his party was in favour of an Animal Rights Bill (see the video here). Recently the Green Party were openly opposed and criticized by a very rare Conservative and Labour collaboration in Brighton.
This is a first for Rouster. If anything, we are used to watching Conservative and Labour MPs, particularly backbenchers, happily taking a swing at the virtually defenceless circus together as they garner cheap accolades from the vocal minorities with deep pockets. With the fairly far to the right Roger Gayle and Anne Widdecombe picking up liberal Brownie points for their weight on banning wild animals in circus, a cause taken up by their party's backbencher, Mark Prichard. Not to be outdone on this front, Labour has had a whole host of MPs, once spearheaded by Angela Smith (who also publicly opposed zoos) and today by Jim Fitzpatrick, criticizing animals circuses.
In this article Labour MP, Neil Schofield highlights the priories the Green Party set using an animal rights agenda. Schofield explained how despite labelling other political parties as "parties of austerity" - a new trendy derogative expression popularized by the rather clueless and hypocritical celebrity, Russell Brand - their "claims to support the vulnerable in the city are simply beyond parody." The following paragraph of the article says it all:
"Most significantly, the Green administration opposed a Labour motion requiring the Council to report on food bank use in the city, deeming this a waste of officers’ time. To put this into perspective, at a meeting of the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee on 1 July, the administration proposed that the Council should put scarce resources into consulting on the banning of horses in circuses – despite a complete absence of any evidence that there was any animal welfare issue in play. Green Councillors – some of whom, ironically enough, sit on the board of the Brighton Racecourse, where a number of horses have been fatally injured over the years – made their motivation quite clear; the intention of spending the ten months until the election trying to persuade their core support that horses were suffering and it was all Labour’s fault. Whereas, today, in a city where three thousand people have to resort to food banks, where child poverty is as high as 45% in the poorer (and Green-free) areas of East Brighton, outgoing Council leader Jason Kitcat claimed that reporting on food banks was an inappropriate use of resources."
Let us remember that recent politicking regarding UK animal circuses have been focused entirely on the issue of banning wild animals from travelling circuses. That is wild animals, as defined under the Zoo Regulation Act 1981. However, horses do not fall under this act. The Green Party, like their animal rights supporters across the board, want a complete ban of all non-human animals from circuses. Furthermore, they consider it a more important issue than protecting their fellow vulnerable human beings.
So, how does this all impact on the general public? The UK have millions being spent by and on the various AR pressure groups, a well-funded political lobby and at least one party who has its agenda in line with the AR movement, and the traditional animal circus represented by a minuscule minority. When Thomas Chipperfield took his mixed group of lions and tigers to winter on a farm in Scotland, opening up his training sessions to the general public the AR movement were predictably on the move. Press were called in and various papers, used to being fed the sensationalist emotive headlines directly from the various groups, reported on the "big cats in small cages". Thomas Chipperfield felt a need to defend himself and he did very well, again highlighting the significant difference between Animal Welfare and Animal Rights in "The Times" (read the article here). He also restated his own support for the new, transparent, government inspections of circuses. However, he seemed to be a lone voice as the propaganda machine got in full swing and the familiar ambitious journalists hastily posted up pictures of tigers looking out from behind bars. As hundreds of people gathered to watch the displays on a daily basis, the Scottish National Party has declared it will look into banning wild animals in circuses after seeing footage of Thomas Chipperfield's animals. Wait! Yes, you read that earlier bit of my sentence correctly, hundreds of people came to watch the training sessions. Just as hundreds of people flocked to see them when they appeared on Peter Jolly's Circus as it toured the UK.
In their article, clearly slanted against wild animals in circuses, the Daily Record left an opinion poll on whether or not the Government should ban wild animals in circuses. Previously, Rouster has previously reported on the way these polls can easily be manipulated. Nevertheless, as you can see by our photograph at the top of this article, it is an interesting result.
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 https://www.facebook.com/groups/223570581049199
Or follow us on Twitter: @RousterAstley