Images of performing sea lions on children’s pyjamas. Lions and elephants on a circus canvas. A toy circus train that transports a rabbit and an elephant. Circus print fabric with lions and elephants. A quick search online found all these products being sold by major UK high street retailers. They’re marketed as retro, vintage, or fun – even though they all depict wild animals living or performing in a circus.
Born Free is wholly opposed to the use of wild animals in circuses and the exploitation of wild animals for entertainment. We believe it is outdated, demeaning and unacceptable to force animals to perform unnatural behaviours for entertainment and to exploit captive wild animals in circuses, performances, human interactions, and in advertising, film and television.
In January 2020, a national ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses was introduced in England and a national ban has been in place in Scotland since May 2018. Both these bans had huge public support, and yet people continue to buy products depicting animal exploitation.
It’s not just circus-themed products. Major fashion and fragrance brands, for example, use CGI (and sometimes live) wild animals in their big-budget ads. Computer-generated is certainly preferable to using live animals, but is presenting images of wild animals in a setting where they are controlled or manipulated by humans an acceptable message to be sending out?
In cases such as this, the counter argument is usually ‘consumer demand’, or ‘because it’s traditional’. In the circus-themed product examples above, I contacted two of the retailers to ask why they were being sold, and both replied that they’d look into it – they’re still on sale.
Wild animals belong in the wild, and there’s nothing better than seeing them in their natural habitat, watching a nature documentary or looking though wildlife photographs, websites and books. The wild - surely that’s the greatest show?