Portugal’s General Department of Veterinary (DGV) has been asked to investigate, after a local resident of Tavira witnessed one of the elephants of the Victor Hugo Cardinalli Circus in poor condition collapsed to the ground and remained there.
In 2008, the resident reported to ADI observing 10 lions, 12 tigers, 5 African elephant (4 with tusks and 1 without), amongst other animals. The big cats seemed stressed and some appeared in poor condition. The elephants were standing and chained by their hind leg. All seemed undernourished and unhealthy, our witness had lived in Africa for six years and so was familiar with how elephants should appear naturally.
She reported: “Then I turned around and saw the elephant without tusks lying flat. Ran back and took two photos. I began knocking on the doors of the caravans, but no one reacted. I ran to another caravan and knocked and one woman came out and came with me to see the elephants. She panicked and told me I was not allowed to be there.” Our witness photographed many of the animals as well as the collapse of the elephant, before the circus left to the city of Faro, later that day.
The resident informed the police authorities, Guarda Nacional Republicana (GNR), at Faro and showed them the photos. However, the police claimed that they lacked power to act because the circus had their paperwork and CITES permits in order and hence was not breaking any law. The next day, the resident informed the GNR at Tavira and presented them with extracts of Animal Defenders International DVD Basta de Sufrimiento nos Circos,
Jan Creamer, ADI Chief Executive, commented: “The head dive and cross legged position adopted by the elephant does not correspond to the typical way a healthy elephant lies down to rest or sleep. In 2005 ADI filmed owner Victor Hugo Cardinalli jabbing a performing tuskless elephant in the face with a metal spike more than 20 times, to force it to perform a trick. Such abuse has an inevitable consequence on animal health and welfare. This elephant symbolises the plight of circus animals and the reason why Portugal needs to ban animals in circuses.”
It is noteworthy that, Victor Hugo Cardinalli previously admitted in an interview: “I did hit the elephant because he did not want to do the trick and I don’t deny it. We can’t let an animal do what he wants to do, otherwise there is no respect and there is no reason for the trainer to be on stage.”
Article 1 of Law 92/95 clearly provides that any acts of unjustified death, cruel and prolonged suffering or lesions are prohibited in the country. Furthermore, article 2 of the law announces that any animal exhibition must have municipal authorisation which will be granted if the conditions of animal welfare set forth in law are duly established. Local authorities must ensure that animal welfare is guaranteed before issuing any licenses.
ADI’s London office responded with letters calling for action to the Portuguese Embassy in the UK and to the General Department of Veterinary (DGV) in Lisbon.
In 2006 ADI and Portugal’s ANIMAL launched a Stop Circus Suffering campaign in Portugal based on evidence collected inside Portuguese circuses by ADI Field Officers. The campaign has been very successful, including coming face to face against multinational TV giant, Endemol, producer of TV show Celebrity Circus. ADI and ANIMAL will continue to work together to press DGV to launch an investigation on the matter.