Animal Aid

The Cruellest Show on Earth? Animal campaigners urge a boycott of the 'Great' British Circus

Posted 11 September 2007

Animal protection campaigners will be holding demonstrations against the Great British Circus during its two-week visit to Tonbridge, Kent beginning on Wednesday, September 12th. Supporters of Animal Aid, The Captive Animals Protection Society (CAPS) and Brighton Animal Action will be leafleting would-be visitors and urging them to boycott the circus.

The Great British Circus, which uses lions, tigers, camels, reindeer, horses, ponies, zebras, dogs and llamas, has attracted much controversy over the years. It is one of the few circuses with animals still to be touring the UK and, in the past, owner, Martin Lacey, admitted that he had shot bears that he could no longer keep.

In 1998, the circus - under its previous name, Circus Harlequin - was the focus of an undercover investigation by Animal Defenders. Then, a tiger named Narla was attacked and mauled by a male lion. Despite being seriously ill, she was treated by her presenter, and remained on tour.

Additionally, complaints made against the circus via the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) were upheld in both 2005 and 2006. The circus had attempted to promote the message that animals were cared for to a high standard but the ASA ruled against them.

Craig Redmond, Campaigns Manager for the Captive Animals’ Protection Society, said:

‘CAPS is not opposed to circuses, only to the use of animals, and we would encourage people to avoid animal circuses and instead visit one of the many excellent circuses that rely entirely on human skills. A travelling circus, by its very nature, is totally incapable of meeting all the needs of animals.’

Kate Fowler-Reeves, Head of Campaigns with Animal Aid, said:

‘This circus is a throwback to the bad old days of bearded ladies and see-the-freak sideshows. Wild animals deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and have the right to live freely. Instead, the Great British Circus continues to keep them in cages, transport them all around the country and parade them around the ring for the amusement of paying punters. The only ‘Great’ thing about this circus is the suffering it inflicts.’

The Animal Welfare Act, which came into force in April 2007, will ban the use of some animals in circuses from 2008. CAPS and Animal Aid urge the Government to end the use of all animals, not just wild animals, from circuses.

Notes to Editor

  • Demonstrations will take place at the Boot Fair Site, London Road, Tonbridge TN4 OUQ at 6.30pm on Wednesday 12th and Thursday 13th September. Other demonstrations will be taking place throughout the duration of the circus’s run.
  • For more information on the history of the circus, contact Craig Redmond, Captive Animals' Protection Society: 0845 330 3911
  • For additional information about the demonstrations, contact Kate Fowler-Reeves, Animal Aid: 01732 364546
  • Photographs available on request.

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