Last year, ADI and Portugal’s ANIMAL launched a Stop Circus Suffering campaign in Portugal based on evidence collected inside Portuguese circuses by ADI Field Officers.
In March 2006, the campaign came face to face with multinational TV giant, Endemol, the company behind Big Brother, when Endemol unveiled its new reality TV show in Portugal Celebrity Circus. The programme on TV1 had celebrities attempting to perform in circus shows, including animal performances, with Circo Victor Hugo Cardinalli.
Last year ADI filmed owner Victor Hugo Cardinalli jabbing a performing elephant in the face with a metal spike more than 20 times, to force it to perform a trick.
Victor Hugo Cardinalli 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”.
ADI and ANIMAL launched a campaign urging Endemol, TVI and the Celebrity Circus sponsors to get the animals out the show. DVDs were sent to every Endemol office around the world.
ADI, which runs the International Network for the Protection of Performing Animals, called on animal protection groups in every country where Endemol has offices to lobby the company to drop the programme and confirm that the format would not be used elsewhere.
In the UK, EastEnders TV star and ADI supporter Peter Polycarpou declared: “I thought reality TV had hit rock bottom but I was wrong. The new benchmark for bad taste is a reality TV circus show. For anyone to be in any doubt that circus animals are mistreated and abused on a daily basis in order to train and subdue them is to be out of touch with reality. Any celebrity who does not know this is refusing to face reality.”
In Portugal, ANIMAL tirelessly pressured the broadcaster and the individual sponsors, including protests at the doors of the companies.
Steadily, the programme received more and more negative publicity.
Faced with a growing tide of public opposition, and witnessing video evidence of the treatment of animals in circuses, one by one the sponsors said “no deal” and withdrew their support: First RE/MAX and Cofaco, then Credial and Bayer.
As the series limped to its conclusion, Endemol was left with a flop, no sponsors an instructive lesson – animal misery is not entertaining and people will not tolerate it.