Animal-free Circus: Should SA follow Ireland's latest wild animal ban?

2017-11-15 12:30 - Gabi Zietsman
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Cape Town - The use of wild animals in Irish circuses will be banned in the country, starting from 1 January 2018.

Last week Ireland's government announced new regulations that will prohibit wild animals in circuses, according to Irish publication The Journal. Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed believes this is in line with modern sentiment over using animals for entertainment.

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“This is a progressive move, reflective of our commitment to animal welfare.” Although he posits that circuses have shown concern and care for their animals, the fact remains that they can never fully provide for all their animals' needs, especially larger animals like camels and tigers.

Circuses with animals will have some time to re-accommodate them, and Creed believes the loss of the animals will help secure the future of the circus community, making it more appealing to the general public.

In March this year, one of the most famous American circuses also closed down, citing the negative perception of circus animals as a major contributing factor. The Ringling Bros and Barnunm & Bailey Circus had been around since mid 1800s, when its exotic animals used to be its main attraction, but changing public opinion ended up turning crowds away.

State of circuses in South Africa

Circuses in South Africa are still allowed to include animals in their shows, although there's been a marked decrease in their visibility. One of the only circuses to still have big animals on display, like lions and tigers, is the McLaren Circus. They cite on their website that all their animals are well looked after.

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"All our animals receive love and care 24 hours a days. We consult with veterinarians throughout South Africa to maintain a high standard. Careful attention is paid to all our animals diets and they receive fresh drinking water too. They all get exercise on a daily basis and receive various forms of stimulation through training and environmental stimulation."

In an interview with Fin24, circus owner David McLaren addressed animal welfare concerns from activists, stating that he's only been in court twice and won both times. He did admit however that animal circuses will be a thing of the past in the next 10-15 years, as circuses become more dependent on humans and don't buy new animals when old ones retire.

SEE: Infamous SA circus owner fights laws that protect elephants

Another famous circus owner, Brian Boswell, has had been viewed less favourably by the public, especially since a Carte Blanche episode in 2013 that showed handlers abusing animals at his circus. His circus has since been sold, but earlier this year the court denied his appeal to sell three of his elephants to a zoo in Dubai.

New kid on the block, The Fantastic Grifizzi Brother, seems to be what the future of the circus industry looks like. They started touring this year and markets themselves as an 'animal free circus', focusing on story-focused shows, acrobatics and people in animal and other dress-up. 

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