ADI calls for measures to ban wild animal circus acts to be brought in swiftly to prevent further suffering
New footage filmed by ADI and reported by the Daily Mirror today (and their sister paper in Scotland the Daily Record) has revealed the dismal daily lives of the last big cats performing in a British circus when the season comes to an end. There is no respite for the lions and tigers owned by Thomas Chipperfield, who have been trucked up to North East Scotland, as reported by ADI last week, on a gruelling 24 hour journey. They are set to spend the bitter winter months on show to the public in their home – the truck they travel in – sited in a muddy field and exposed to the elements.
The big cats are the first wild circus animals to be seen in Scotland for several years, and their arrival has caused Aberdeen MSP Kevin Stewart to call on Scotland to ban such acts. ADI is supporting this measure and also a Bill to ban wild animals in circuses in England which will have its crucial second reading today, November 7th.
ADI’s new footage was filmed in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, and shows one of the three tigers pacing back and forth inside the ‘beastwagon’, in which the animals live and are also transported in. This abnormal, repetitive ‘stereotypic’ behaviour is not seen in the wild, but is commonly observed in circuses, and indicates that the animals are not coping with their unnatural lives.
Whilst in the circus the big cats face the crowds for set periods at show time and during ‘zoo time’ when customers pay a small fee to see the animals after the show. In Fraserburgh, the animals face a stream of visitors all day, with Thomas Chipperfield accepting donations from those who come to see the big cats.
Although those paying a visit to see the animals may be reassured that they are well treated, the lives they endure are a stark contrast to the lives they would have in the wild, or even in a zoo. Given their solitary nature, tigers in the wild have limited contact with other tigers, and roam and defend their territory which could be as large as 470 km2. In the circus, they are forced to live caged inside the ‘beastwagon’ in close proximity, and alongside another cat species who they would not encounter in the wild. Although an outdoor enclosure is provided, the big cats have limited access – one of many welfare issues.
ADI documented similarly abnormal behaviour whilst the animals were on tour with Peter Jolly’s Circus earlier this year . Wildlife vet Simon Adams stated “This is a prime reason why the limited space available in a travelling circus is unsuitable to big cats, as patrolling their large territories in the wild is an essential behavioural drive, thwarted by the limited confines of circus accommodation, no matter how hard the circus may try to accommodate them.”
The three tigers – Nadia, a 17 year old female, and Altai and Syas, both 3 year old males – and two lions – Assegai and Tsavo, 4 year old males – have been touring with the circus, one of two licensed to perform in England with wild animal acts, since they were shipped in from a circus in Ireland last year. The only big cat act in Britain, the animals are presented and trained by Thomas Chipperfield, a relative of the notorious Mary Chipperfield who was convicted for animal cruelty as a result of an ADI investigation.
A string of welfare and animal management issues at Peter Jolly’s Circus were revealed earlier this month in circus inspection reports released to ADI. These included the circus failing to provide animals with water in a pre-performance holding area and withholding water for the tigers to bathe in, denying them the ability to perform this natural behaviour, albeit in a small trough of water.
The British Government has remained committed to banning the use of wild animals in circuses since it announced it would prohibit such acts in 2012 but has cited ‘lack of parliamentary time’ for being unable to progress to date. To secure legislation, and the proposed implementation date of December 2015, former Defra Minister Jim Fitzpatrick MP has introduced a Bill championed by ADI which will have its Second Reading today, November 7th. The Bill has been blocked on three previous occasions, reportedly to allow an EU Referendum Bill to progress which has now been shelved, leaving the way clear for the circus Bill to pass.
In Scotland, the government opened a public consultation on the use of wild animals in circuses earlier this year, its response to which has been delayed until the New Year, prompting a warning from ADI President Jan Creamer that “Scotland risks being the destination for its <England’s> wild animal acts”. Less than two weeks later, the lions and tigers arrived in Aberdeenshire, prompting Mr Stewart’s motion.
- Sign our petition urging the Prime Minister to back the new bill (thousands have already signed via Care2)
- If you live in Scotland, please contact your MSP urging them to back the motion introduced by Kevin Stewart to ban wild animals in circuses