Controversy over animal circus

2019-04-02 06:00
Protesting against animal cruelty at William Herbert Sports Ground in Wynberg.

Protesting against animal cruelty at William Herbert Sports Ground in Wynberg.

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About 70 people united with Beauty Without Cruelty to protest outside the William Herbert Sports Ground in Wynberg, objecting the use of animals by local circus, McLaren, on Saturday 23 March.

Beauty Without Cruelty is one of the organisations fighting for animal rights and has been in existence since 1975.

Toni Brockhoven, the chairperson of the organisation, says though the organisation is popularly known for focusing on cosmetics animal testing and vivisection, they also take animal use, abuse and exploitation in all guises.

Brockhoven says: “Currently, we are protesting the circus at William Herbert stadium, but we follow them all over, weekly. We hope that public participation in the performing animal’s section of Animal Protection Act will yield positive results for circus animals, when it is finally published.”

He says all animals should be treated with respect and compassion, and the use of animals is not only detrimental to the well-being of animals, it also sends a message – especially to children – that animals can be used or manipulated for our amusement.

“Born in captivity does not mean these animals are domesticated, they are simply animals born in captivity and their natural behaviours are denied them, for a money-making venture. The excuse that children must see wild animals in the flesh, and the circus is the only way, is nonsense. They teach children that animals don’t have a right to freedom or privacy, or indeed any fundamental right to live their own lives.”

According to Brockhoven, the circus industry claims that it only trains animals to do the types of tricks they might naturally perform in the wild. “Animals live their lives looking for food, sleeping or raising their young,” he disagrees.

He suggests a use of a lion sanctuary located in Paarl, where he says animals can be seen and experienced as they should be, and children could learn from. Brockhoven also says Beauty Without Cruelty wants the circus to make use of human acts, “by people who have chosen this life”.

He says their protest has received positive support, and they hope the public could grasp the message and be vocal activists.

Meanwhile, Karl Hildebrandt, the spokesperson for McLaren says the circus is not about fighting the animals’ rights activists but instead to present an enjoyable family show with amazing human talent and showcasing the interaction between humans and animals, displaying our animals’ natural abilities.

He says they understand that the animals at their circus are not in their natural habitat, but they are hand-reared from a young age in the circus environment and they have grown accustomed to the lifestyle.

“Our animals have all their natural abilities to express any natural instincts, they are however manipulated, through positive reinforcement training, to do things by receiving a treat. During the time when they are not performing, they are relaxing in the sun, or their trailer, which is always cooler than outside.” says Hildebrandt.

He says except for being in Cape Town, they host shows in different cities where people do not have access to wild animals, and they give them that experience in a safe and comfortable environment.


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