Stop Circus Suffering campaign launched in Portugal and Norway
This summer has seen successful launches of our Stop Circus Suffering campaign in Portugal and Norway, both based on undercover investigations of circuses in those countries. Our partners in the Norwegian campaign are NOAH- for dyrs rettigheter, and in Portugal, ANIMAL.
The first step was for our Field Officers to travel to both countries to work undercover in the circuses, filming and photographing the treatment of animals. In Portugal our Field Officers captured evidence of the beating of ponies during training sessions and a donkey being kicked and punched at one of the country’s leading circuses.
With the evidence gathered, we produced with NOAH and ANIMAL a range of campaign materials in their respective languages, including a report, leaflets, posters and a new edit of the Stop Circus Suffering video. As we go to press, we have now launched the circus campaign in five different countries.
Action in Norway
When Odd Harald Eidsmo and Siri Martinsen from NOAH contacted us about becoming a partner in the Stop Circus Suffering campaign, we knew this would highlight how animals travel with circuses in inappropriate climates. In Norway, elephants suffer terribly in circuses.
In April, our new video and campaign materials were launched with a press conference in the centre of Oslo. Our giant inflatable elephant was put up in the main square, whilst NOAH supporters distributed leaflets, and inside at the press conference our new Norwegian video Tvunget til å underholde (literally “Forced to entertain”) was screened in full. Members of the audience wept as the disturbing images appeared on screen.
A number of Norwegian celebrities are backing the campaign, including: Leading cartoonist Lise Myhre (creator of Nemi – cartoon strip published in the UK and other countries); actress Ane Dahl Torp; actor Karl Sundby; and singer Mari Vestbø who was a finalist in Norway’s equivalent of “Pop Idol”. Renowned expert in elephant communication, Joyce Poole, who has studied elephants for over 30 years, also addressed the meeting, along with Siri Martinsen of NOAH and Tim Phillips of ADI.
A Norwegian Government White Paper on animal welfare had concluded that the natural needs of animals must be taken into account, therefore this is the central theme of the campaign. The launch attracted great interest, and Norwegian Government officials are now talking to NOAH about the campaign.
Action in Portugal
In the summer of 2003, we received a tip off from a tourist about a polar bear touring with a Portuguese circus. One of our Field Officers was quickly on the scene to gather video and photographic evidence – the bear was living in a beastwagon in the sweltering summer sun with just a domestic fan for cooling. We began working with Miguel Moutinho, the Executive Director of ANIMAL, to see if legal action could be taken against the circus, but unfortunately it disappeared.
This year, ADI and ANIMAL resolved to end the use of animals in circuses in Portugal. In June a team of Field Officers trailed eleven circuses all over the country, for a month, including a job with Circo Soledad Cardinali. The Cardinali family are the Portuguese equivalent of the Chipperfields in the UK. Soledad is the sister of Victor Hugo Cardinali, the owner of the country’s biggest circus. This is the most comprehensive study of Portuguese circuses ever undertaken.
Portuguese circuses target the tourists, especially in August in the Algarve. A Field Officer therefore returned in August to monitor the animals living in cages on lorries in very hot temperatures, often over 35°C. As the top tourism-generating country for Portugal, the UK accounts for 31.8% of tourists in the area – nearly 2 million.
Our investigations found animals living in inadequate, deprived and unnatural conditions. Severe confinement, a consistent factor with travelling animal circuses all over the world, was compounded by lack of space to exercise or to perform natural behaviours and lack of social interaction with their own species. There was inadequate provision of food and water. Examples of unnatural and inappropriate husbandry included baboons being kept alongside mountain lions. Elephants were jabbed and struck with metal elephant hooks about the head and face; ponies were whipped repeatedly during training; a donkey was kicked; a pony was hit in the face; a pig screamed whilst a worker tried to fit a collar on it.
We also found that when circuses moved town, animals were kept in their trailers for unnecessarily long periods – up to 16 times longer than a journey had actually taken.
A special report and DVD were produced in Portuguese and English, and circulated to MEPs for both countries.
The campaign was launched on October 4th – World Animal Day and the feast day of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. A press conference was held in central Lisbon, where the video was shown in full.
Tim Phillips of ADI and Miguel Moutinho of ANIMAL addressed the meeting, followed by various Portuguese experts who are backing the campaign including: Augusta Gaspar, professor of ethology; Ilda Rosa, veterinary surgeon and professor of animal behaviour and animal welfare; Alexandra Pereira, veterinary surgeon with a doctorate in clinical ethology, animal welfare and animal behaviour; Constança Carvalho, a psychologist and researcher in ethology; Gonçalo Pereira, a veterinary surgeon and researcher in clinical ethology and animal welfare; and Manuel Eduardo dos Santos, a biologist and professor of applied ethology.
The launch attracted considerable media interest and since then ANIMAL has continued to drive the campaign forward all over Portugal.
“Elephants in circuses are confined and chained for hours, are bought and sold, separated from companions, and frequently moved about. An elephant´s place is in the wild with its relatives and companions. The totally unnatural existence for captive elephants in a circus is a travesty and to allow this practice to continue is unjustified and unethical”
Joyce Poole, elephant communication expert
“This video demonstrates clearly that shows involving performing animals, especially with the kind of cruelty we have seen, are at odds with the nature of animals and causes them an immense suffering.”
Gonçalo Pereira, veterinary surgeon and researcher in clinical ethology and animal welfare
“For human performers entertaining is fun, but animals are confined and forced to entertain. Animals should be free, not in cages on vehicles at a circus. I urge everyone to watch this new video and only support animal-free circuses.”
Mari Vestbø, singer
“In this video, we have witnessed very obvious signs of severe suffering,”
Augusta Gaspar, professor of ethology
“Circus animals endure severe physical and social deprivation, which is evident through their stereotypic behaviours. Animal circuses are anti-education and a perfect example of unnecessary suffering,”
Constança Carvalho, psychologist and researcher in ethology
“As an actor my world is the stage. But the stage is not the world of animals – their world is nature. Circus animals are performers against their will. I support the call for animal-free circuses,”
Karl Sundby, actor
“We have just watched a parade of animals that are deprived of natural interactions with others from their own species and a natural or, at least, acceptable environment. They are socially deprived, severely confined, indeed deprived of everything that is natural to them. This video shows mentally disturbed animals, suffering both physically and psychologically. These animals have quite clearly given up living.”
Alexandra Pereira, veterinary surgeon with a doctorate in clinical ethology, animal welfare and animal behaviour
“It is absurd to lock animals in cages and containers or keep them in chains, simply for the sake of entertainment. Those who think animals voluntarily balance on top of each other or stand on their heads, should watch this video.”
Lise Myhre, creator of Nemi cartoon
“I was shocked by the treatment of animals in this video. It is wrong to have animals living in such conditions, and I don’t want bored, frightened and tormented animals to entertain us.”
Ane Dahl Torp, actress
“The training of animals in circuses is unnatural and it is clear that only through heavy violence is it possible to make tigers and elephants do what they are forced to do in circuses. This video shows how anti-education and unnatural it is to keep and use animals in circuses. It also shows the violence with which they are treated during circus performances and even more during circus training sessions.”
Ilda Rosa, veterinary surgeon and professor of animal behaviour and animal welfare, Lisbon University School of Vet. Medicine
Last word from the UK Government:
“Defra veterinarians consider that there is a lack of scientific evidence to support the view that any particular form of entertainment involving animals is by its very nature cruel and therefore should be prohibited. However, there is a considerable amount of anecdotal evidence that suggests that welfare standards in some instances fall below acceptable standards.”