Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Roll up, roll up… see saddest show on earth

7 July 2015

Categories: Circus Campaign News, Zoo Check Campaign News, Homepage News

Powys, Wales - On Friday, two investigators from the Born Free Foundation attended the opening night of the “Evening with Lions and Tigers” – the controversial circus show being staged this week by big cat trainer, Thomas Chipperfield, in Welshpool, Powys. What they witnessed there was not only of concern for the big cats themselves, but also showed the extent to which the outdated practice of using wild animals in travelling shows in this way has fallen out of favour with the general public.

Just two days ago, circus owner Anthony Beckwith stated in the press: “there are hundreds of people inside the tent”. In reality, so few people attended the show on Friday – just twenty-two in addition to Born Free’s undercover investigators – that footage shows the vast majority of the seats in the dark and dingy big top sitting empty.

The show itself involved lions and tigers sitting on metal platforms and being asked to perform meaningless tricks by Chipperfield, such as lifting paws in the air, lying on the ground and rolling over. One lion appeared be reluctant to roll over on command, and instead lay on the floor batting at the stick being held near him with his paws. When he finally performed the roll after extensive coaxing from the trainer, an awkward ripple of applause can be heard through the largely empty tent.

Outside, after the lacklustre show, footage was captured which showed the big cats in the cages in which they spend a large part of their daily lives. Two lions paced backwards and forwards; a behaviour which may be considered “stereotypic” and indicative of psychological distress. The behaviour was also filmed by Born Free late last year when the same big cats were being kept over winter in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. This type of pacing behaviour is very common in captive big cats when they are unable to fulfil their basic behavioural needs.

Upon seeing the footage and hearing the account of investigators, President of the Born Free Foundation Will Travers said:

“The public have spoken time and again; calling for this outdated form of exploitation to be brought to an end. They are also voting with their feet, with footage demonstrating that the claims made by the circus owner of people turning out in droves to see the show are simply inaccurate. In my view, there is no educational value in watching a tiger lie on the floor of the big top, nor a lion pace backwards and forwards relentlessly in his tiny cage. It’s not just that this is an appalling way to treat sentient and intelligent wild animals but, together with the great majority of people, I find it impossible to understand how this sad show can be considered entertaining”.

The Born Free Foundation and partners, including the British Veterinary Association, the Captive Animals’ Protection Society and the RSPCA, have long campaigned for an outright ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses. The organisations share the firm belief that the complex welfare needs of non-domesticated animals such as big cats cannot be met in a travelling circus environment.

Twenty three countries around the world have already implemented full or partial bans on the use of wild animals in circuses; including nine countries within Europe.

You can help!

The big cats used in Thomas Chipperfield’s show have been moved through Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales in the last two years alone.

It is vital that action is taken in all countries within the UK if we are to bring an end to this outdated practice once and for all. Please click the link to find out what you can do where you live to help to make UK-wide prohibition of the use of wild animal circuses a reality.

Make a donation towards Born Free's work to help captive wildlife

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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