Sad Saturday

Dear Friends

Well, I can think of better things to do but the Great British Circus with its lions, tigers, camels and llamas came to within a few miles of the Born Free offices in Horsham and so, last Saturday, I went to take a look.

It was the 5 pm performance and the Big Top was half-empty. Personally I thought it was a sad and depressing experience, not a lot of fun and not a lot of laughter. The one quality human act, a juggler called Gordon, was the only performance that really got people cheering. The tigers sat on their stools, rolled over on their backs, jumped through hoops and then left the ring. It was short and not particularly sweet.

Afterwards, I paid the extra £1 and went round the back. In their beast-wagons (although I am told by Jeff Link, a representative of the Great British Circus, that they should be called “homes”) the tigers and lions were eating and nearby was their “free-association enclosure” – or as we would call it an exercise cage – measuring about 25 ft by 25 ft.

It is hardly inspiring and certainly it is not a ‘crowd-puller’.

And it makes me more determined than ever to work with the many Members of Parliament and the millions of people around the country who feel, as I do, that wild animals in particular, should not be in circuses. I saw little that could possibly be regarded as educational. I saw nothing that persuaded me this was contributing to endangered species conservation.

I saw a tired and lack-lustre spectacle, a throw-back to another era – an era that is well past its sell-by date.

Blogging off


Information on wild animals in UK circuses and what you can do

Lions at the circusBeastwagon

9 Responses to “Sad Saturday”

  1. Dawn Davies Says:

    I totally agree. I live in Wilmslow and several months ago a circus with wild animals set up shop here. There was a piece in the local paper, with a picture of one of the people associated with the circus and 2 zebras. Apparently they don’t mind being moved from pillar to post!! I wonder how they know this. I did not visit this spectacle, I know it would have proved too upsetting.

    I wrote to my local MP, shadow chancellor George Osborne, urging him to sign the EDM regarding circuses with the aim of working towards a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses. I pointed out that since it is believed that approximately 80% of the British public think it is wrong that animals are used in this way that obviously this could be applied to his constituents, the very people who voted for him to represent them. He replied that he would not be signing the motion as he does not believe that a blanket ban would be the way forward. I have a hard time understanding how MPs can forget very quickly who voted for them and why – surely it is to represent them, not to patronize them and to dismiss real concerns. Good luck with the campaign, I truly hope not all MPs are the same as Mr Osborne.

  2. Rebecca Winnard Says:

    Don’t despair. I wrote to David Hanson MP who took a more positive view on the situation. Although he could not vote on the EDM due to him being a Cabinet Minister he did pass my letter onto the Agricultural Minister. Judging by the response, (although being very careful not to promise anything)it looks as though Parliament are actually beginning to recognise that the general Public want a ban.

  3. David Thompson Says:

    I have to disagree with some of the comments made.Having worked in circus i know the hours of work i spent looking after the animals and making sure they were happy and content.The trouble with this this country is that the answer seems to be ban what a percentage of people dont like.But to be fair when i have visited circuses they has been a high percentage of people that do like animal acts in the circus.What i think we should concentrate on is making sure that the standards of wild animal care and training stay to the highest level possible instead of just banning it.As for domestic animals e.g Horses the experience that i have had working with them is that they are as happy as any other horse in a domestic situation the travelling is no more stressful than a horse travelling and staying at a show week in week out.As regards for training its no different than teaching a horse to showjump,do dressage or race.So instead of banning lets make an effort to maintain standards and advise not ban.

  4. Mark Achurch Says:

    The tiny number of circuses with wild animals are best left alone unless proved to be acting illegally. They are a part of our heritage and tradition and owned by a few mavericks willing to face the hard work and dedication of operating nowadays.
    The few that remain are not the most successful shows and are unlikely to be around for much longer. The public does accept animal acts; eg dressage, ‘Kate and Gin’, horses in Zippos circus, camel races etc. Wild animals trained by ex circus people regularly feature in TV wildlife productions.
    Our attitudes to animals are so confused. The ‘diary’ form of wildlife documentary such as ‘Meerkat Manor’ ascribes speculative motivations and qualities to animals that are as anthropromorphic as anything seen in the olden days of animal circus.
    The best human animal performances are those that show real cooperation. Old fashioned exploitation of fight and flight distances to produce an ‘act’ aren’t necessarily cruel but are boring and won’t attract an educated audience.
    The campaigns against the UK’s last couple of wild animal circuses is mean minded and fairly irrelevant to long term
    animal welfare issues.

  5. mary gaywood Says:

    At the moment i am currently trying to get circuses with animals banned from northern ireland.
    i have written to our assembly and had quite a good response from one member of our assembly who is meeting with welfare groups here.
    i have already managed to get one circus banned from our borough.

    mary gaywood

  6. Amanda Hurton Says:

    When the NOT so Great British Circus pays a visit to the town where I live I stand outside with others on a peaceful demonstration. The figures attending his show are dropping and yet he gives out free tickets and along with 2 for 1 vouchers. We try to hand out leaflets to those who are willing to take one and suprisingly there are those who approach us afterwards and say they agree with us in that animals do not deserve the kind of conditions they are in. Cage to stage is just heartbreaking and the public are becoming more aware of it thorugh charities such as Born Free. What I found really unnerving was when the ringmaster sent his staff to threaten us and actually became very verbally violent. It saddened me to see how people with their attitude can be in charge of animals. I have replies from parliament and my MP and continue to live in hope that this will end but we have to get them to listen to the truth and not be satisfied by “Scientific studies” I am proud to be a member of Born Free. Keep up the brilliant work.

  7. Neville Wells Says:

    In response to a minority of earlier comments in favour of animals in circuses or ambivalent about it, may I say that a single animal in a single circus or zoo is one too many!
    Numerically-speaking Born Free has an opportunity to see such circuses ended in the foreseeable future so how can this possibly be “mean-minded and fairly irrelevant to long -term animal welfare issues”?
    Would having an “educated ” audience justify circuses, I wonder, and while we’re at it- how bored do the animals get?

    “Pole-Pole catchee monkey” Or rather let it go.

  8. Neville Wells Says:

    Come to think of it in China and other Asian countries it’s the uneducated who enjoy animal spectacles, not realising that by their cruelty big business is debasing the paying public’s human values and sensibilities, as Sir Peter Scott famously said. So education is the key there and elsewhere in Europe and on the continent of America where animal shows and theme parks prevail.

    My MP generally won’t sign EDMs because it entails research time and expense by his staff and he questions how effective EDMs are. As he is a Conservative spokesman on education I shall approach him again on how to teach children in schools respect for animals. Hoprfully they just won’t want to see a circus when they know the facts.

  9. Jonathan Says:

    Wild animals belong in the wild and NOT in circuses – it’s as simple as that. I beleive that’s why they are called wild animals !

    Can anyone tell me how circuses obtain these wild animals in the first place ?