Protesters target circus

2013-06-17 00:00

THE presence of McLaren Circus at Woodburn stadium has got the fur flying between the circus’s management and people opposed to using live animals for entertainment.

KZN businesswoman Gail Cornhill, organiser of a protest outside the circus on Saturday, said it was sad to see tigers, lions, camels, and other animals performing in a circus.

“These circus animals are condemned to life imprisonment without trial — a practice that was outlawed in South Africa years ago,” she said.

Cornhill said it was “outrageous” that a member of the McLaren circus, disguised in animal costume, had “pushed” one of their protesters and that another took a tiger out for a walk on a leash in view of the demonstrators.

The demonstrator who was allegedly pushed, Carina Cunningham Webber, confirmed on Facebook that she had laid an assault charge over the incident.

Cornhill said more and more countries are banning live animals in circus acts.

“While it might seem fun to roll up at the big top with your children in tow, give a thought to the animals who are carted around from town to town, city to city, in small cages every day of the year, just to ensure that you get your two hours of enjoyment. Exercise space is limited and infrequent, and training methods inhumane,” Cornhill said in a recent letter to The Witness.

Demonstrators said their complaint against McLaren Circus is not that the animals aren’t physically well cared for, but that dragging live animals from pillar to post in cages for entertainment is abuse. It is also distasteful to see wild animals forced to perform tricks in a circus ring.

McLaren’s animal trainer, Casey Cainan of Texas, disagrees.

He said all the circus’s animals were hand-raised and can’t be described as wild. “These lions and tigers are no different to your domestic pets, like dogs and cats. If anything, they have a better quality of life than in the wild. Their life expectancy is much higher, they are fed fresh chicken and vitamins daily, they always have fresh water, access to a vet when they are sick and are sheltered from the weather.”

He added they get more exercise and stimulation than in the wild, where lions “only move for food” and are known to sleep 22 hours a day.

Cainan said his training methods are not cruel, and invited The Witness to watch him work.

Circus owner David McLaren said that in spite of what a “handful” of animal activists might think, 85 000 people came to the circus during a four-month stay in Cape Town. McLaren added that his lions and tigers were bred and born in captivity. McLaren and Cainan said the animals were used to being on the road, and regarded their cages as a “safe haven”.

A protest was also held in Durban on Saturday against the presence of Brian Boswell’s circus there.

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