Stop Circus Suffering

Arts Council funding of Irish animal circuses plummets

Grants awarded to animal circuses fall by nearly ninety per cent since launch of Stop Circus Suffering Ireland


Arts Council funding of animal circuses in Ireland has undergone a seismic shift following a joint campaign by Animal Defenders International (ADI) and Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN).

Since the launch of our now decade-long Stop Circus Suffering campaign in Ireland, grants awarded to animal circuses have fallen dramatically, and by nearly ninety per cent since 2008.

The Arts Council awards grants to animal circuses through its Annual Programming Grant and Annual Funding. According the Council’s website, the highest level of funding for animal circuses was €186,500 in 2008, for three animal circuses, compared with just €20,000 for one animal circus this year. The total level of funding granted to animal circuses during this period has exceeded £0.75 million.

Over the past decade, following the launch of our joint ‘Stop Circus Suffering’ campaign in Ireland, ADI and ARAN have been urging The Arts Council to end its funding of animal circuses and instead support talented human artists who, unlike the animals, have a choice whether to perform. Just one animal circus, Duffy’s, continues to receive financial support.

Duffy’s has yet to announce what animal acts will feature in its 2016 show but the circus has faced criticism of its wild animal performances in the past. A 2005 report by ADI and ARAN revealed that six tigers were kept in an enclosure measuring just 3.7 metres by 7.3 metres. In Britain, where a temporary inspection regime is in place, big cat owner Thomas Chipperfield has had difficulties getting a licence to perform in England after a government inspector found the animals’ accommodation to be “just over half of guidance level” and stated that access to enrichment and exercise “falls well short”.

Fresh welfare concerns were sparked when the big cats were replaced at Duffy’s by a sea lion act. In the wild, these intelligent and social animals regularly dive hundreds of metres underwater to hunt but this fundamental, natural behaviour is denied them in the circus.

The fall in Arts Council funding reflects the declining popularity of animal circuses across Ireland, the UK and around the world. Acting on changing attitudes, over 30 countries and hundreds of local authorities have prohibitions on animal circus acts in place, with bans also secured in many local authorities in Ireland.

Unlike England and Wales, which have committed to ban wild animals in circuses, the Irish Government is considering a system of regulation, with Northern Ireland. The British system is failing and evidence shows that such measures do not safeguard welfare or protect animals from abuse.

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