As the Catalan Parliament considers a ban on wild animals in circuses, British animal trainer Rona Brown gives evidence. You can watch her testimony here:
Born Free’s President, Will Travers OBE, offers his verdict on Ms. Brown’s performance:
Ms. Brown’s experience with circus animals is clearly not the same as my parents Bill and Virginia were exposed to while making the film Born Free. The two CIRCUS lions that the production company had brought in to star in Born Free had only one idea in mind: to cause trouble and worse. After they nearly ‘got’ my Dad they were withdrawn from the film.
For Ms Brown to try and justify the continued use of wild animals in circuses on the basis that films using animals would not have been made is patently ridiculous.
She refers to Gorillas in the Mist – a film made more than 20 years ago. Things have changed. The latest Planet of the Apes films do not use wild animals, nor does the new SSE TV advert “featuring” an orangutan. They are all CGI. Life of Pi did have one small sequence with a live tiger but the rest was CGI.
My friend and colleague Ian Redmond OBE, Chairman of the Ape Alliance and former research assistant to Dr Dian Fossey, has this to say about Ms. Brown’s claim that Gorillas in the Mist could not have been made without circus animals:
“A circus chimp was used in filming one small part of Gorillas in the Mist, but it is wrong to say the film could not have been made without it. Furthermore, if Dian Fossey had still been alive she would never have allowed it and would have insisted on using CGI or animatronics”.
She suggests that animals in zoos are being treated more and more like animals in the circus. What nonsense. I am not aware of any serious zoo that puts its big cats through rings of fire, has a trainer in spandex in the enclosure, ‘complements’ the experience with flashing lights and loud music.
Regarding the impossibility of people all going to Africa: that is true. Any more than everyone can go to the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, the Great Pyramids. We cannot do everything but does that mean it is OK for us to bring such wild animals into close (unnatural) proximity with the UK urban population for the transient ‘entertainment’ of the circus experience with all its distorted values? Absolutely not.
She claims that going to a circus gives kids the chance to smell the animal, see it up close, benefit from a conservation message and the provision of information that tells them all about each animal – where it comes from, how old it is and more. That is supposed to justify the use of wild animals in a circus. I can’t even see the straw she is clutching at!
Circuses deliver “benefits to conservation”? I cannot find the words necessary to debunk such a ridiculous assertion. I find it hard to imagine one serious conservation professional aligning themselves with the so-called conservation credentials of a circus.