Setback for reality TV giant Endemol as every sponsor pulls out of Portugal’s “Celebrity Circus” following intense campaign.
In October 2005, 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 multi-national TV giant, Endemol, the company behind “Big Brother”, when Endemol unveiled its new reality TV show in Portugal “Celebrity Circus”
Broadcast on Portuguese television station TVI, the programme had celebrities attempting to perform in circus shows… including animal performances with Circo Victor Hugo Cardinalli.
Last year ADI filmed inside 11 Portuguese circuses. During one show, owner Victor Hugo Cardinali was filmed jabbing a performing elephant in the face with a metal spike more than 20 times to force it to perform a trick. The clip can be seen on the ADI website here.
Victor Hugo Cardinali admitted (in response to the footage broadcasted by two TV stations of him spiking the elephants) during a Portuguese radio 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”.
The ADI team also filmed Victor Hugo Cardinali’s sister Soledad Cardinali in her own circus repeatedly whipping a small pony during a training session.
ADI and ANIMAL launched a campaign urging Endemol, TVI and the “Celebrity Circus” sponsors to get the animals out the show and to raise awareness about animal suffering in circuses. A DVD of footage of animals in Portuguese circuses, including Circo Victor Hugo Cardinalli, was 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. Endemol were urged to drop the programme and to 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 sponsors, with protests at the doors of the companies involved, e-mails from supporters, faxes, and phone calls.
Steadily, the programme received more and more negative publicity.
Evidence of the suffering of animals with Circo Victor Hugo Cardinalli and other circuses was also sent to the four companies sponsoring the show.
Faced with a growing tide of public opposition, and outraged by 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.