Stop Circus Suffering

The science on suffering: Prosecutions and the law

If the Animal Welfare Bill does not contain a prohibition on the use of animals in travelling circuses, it will remain extremely difficult to prosecute for cruelty in a circus, without the kind of undercover investigations conducted by ADI.

10. Prosecutions and the law

  • If the Animal Welfare Bill does not contain a prohibition on the use of animals in travelling circuses, it will remain extremely difficult to prosecute for cruelty in a circus, without the kind of undercover investigations conducted by ADI.
  • We believe that situation will still be impossible to police, because

– the circus fraternity is secretive and closely-knit group and therefore outsiders see very little of the actual day-to-day lives of the animals.

– It is difficult to secure evidence of cruelty in circuses because they constantly move from town to town – leaving an area before evidence can be gathered and processed;

– For example during an ADI investigation, a female lion, Narla, was attacked by a male tiger and seriously injured. When a local RSPCA official called to look around the circus, the workers hid Narla in her cage, behind bales of straw. The official was videotaped conversing with the circus workers, standing outside the cage containing the lioness, completely unaware of her plight – just a couple of feet away.

  • Similarly, local Environmental Health Officers have reported (Animal Welfare and the Law, Eds. Blackman, Humphreys & Todd, 1989, CUP) that if they find out that a circus is coming to their area, and they do manage to conduct a health and safety inspection, there is little time to take action before the circus leaves the area.
  • The milestone that exposed the suffering in circuses was in 1998 – after a two year investigation, ADI issued 49 summonses for cruelty offences under the 1911 Act against circus and film industry trainer Mary Chipperfield, her husband Roger Cawley (at the time a Government Zoo inspector), and their elephant keeper.
  • This resulted in 1999, with the first-ever convictions for cruelty in the industry. The Cawleys were fined and the elephant keeper imprisoned.
  • However, the trial also established that the law allows any level of violence to be inflicted upon an animal up to the point that it complies with the command.
  • ADI believes that for circus animals, any Code of Practice will negate the new Animal Welfare Act’s intended protection.
  • Only if the beating continues after the animal has complied, it is illegal. As the Magistrate at the time stated: “…it is not for us to judge if that is right – it is legal”.

Click here for a PDF of the report

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