Stop Circus Suffering

The summer she almost died on tour – excerpts from Anne’s Diary

Animal Defenders International (ADI) has monitored animal circuses all over the world. Our Field Officers have worked undercover in over 20 circuses.

Anne at Bobby Roberts Super Circus

Our studies show that with the best will in the world, travelling circuses simply cannot provide for the needs of their animals. Moving from place to place, setting up on what land is available, the animals inevitably endure a lack of space to move around, constantly tied up, lack of companionship of their own kind, lack of appropriate facilities, long periods locked in lorries, and violence and force used to move and control the animals.

When ADI has monitored elephant Anne with Bobby Roberts’ Circus we found that she symbolises all of these problems. Here are just a few of our observations:

December 1995: Anne, Beverley, and Janey, the three Asian elephants are with Bobby Roberts Super Circus in Scotland. ADI films a performance in which the animals are ridden by women and forced to do a variety of tricks. A whip is cracked around their legs to reinforce commands. A circus worker halts filming.

December 2000: After touring for the summer, the circus arrives for its customary winter season at Glasgow’s national Exhibition Centre (NEC). ADI monitors the entire stay with the elephants living in the NEC car park.

January 2001: The NEC season ends and the circus head for home from Glasgow to its permanent quarters at Brook Farm, Polebrook, in Cambridgeshire. ADI trails the circus on the long, slow journey into the night. However with just a few miles to go, the circus pulls into a motorway service station, remaining there for the night. The elephants still cooped up inside their truck.

Later that year, Janey and Beverley died suddenly, leaving Annie to tour alone in the summer of 2002.

There had already been another sudden death in 2001, when a horse collapsed and died in the ring.

June 2002: An ADI supporter photographed Anne with Bobby Roberts Circus as they toured England. The elephant was in appalling condition. She had lost an enormous amount of weight (in face she was skeletal), her skin was extremely poor, and she appeared to be in pain. ADI despatched Field Officers to monitor the circus and see if any action could be taken to save Anne.

7th June, Blackpool: Anne was being kept by day in an electric fenced enclosure, which was water logged and measured just 18 paces by 18 paces. She appeared in the circus ring during the interval for photographs. She was extremely thin and her face gaunt, and she had difficulty walking, but shuffled into the show.
(Circuses often claim that sick animals are taken off the road and return to their winter quarters – ADI has evidence to demonstrate that this claim is false).

ADI began to make arrangements to gain access for a vet and continued to trail the circus.

16th June: Circus animals generally spend very long hours in transporters – even when the journey is short. This is because the animals are loaded, and then the entire circus is dismantled and then set up at the next location. It was no exception with sick Anne.

The journey from Blackpool to Carlisle on 16th June took 3 hours on the road, but Anne was shut in her transporter for 19 hours.

19th June: ADI employed elephant expert and veterinary surgeon Simon Adams to examine Anne, with the agreement of Bobby Roberts. Simon Adams examined Anne on 19 June 2002 at Carlisle Racecourse.

Anne was found to be extremely sick and in pain, but was under veterinary supervision and began to recover. However, her arthritis is a long-term condition and likely to deteriorate. Despite this there was no legal course that would enable ADI to take action.

23rd June: The next journey from Carlisle to Silloth on 23rd June was a mere 25 miles and took 45 minutes, but Anne was shut in her transporter for 17 hours and 45 minutes.

The horses were let out after her; they had remained shut in their transporter for 18 hours.

During ADI’s observations, when shut in her tent during the evenings and mornings, Anne displayed disturbed, stereotypic behaviour. This kind of behaviour is indicative of the mental and emotional damage that an elephant suffers from the confinement and poor husbandry in circuses. Such unnatural and pointless movements include constant swaying, nodding and swinging of the head.

In Carlisle Anne made a break for freedom, when she saw some lush vegetation. She gorged herself on grass for about 10 minutes before anyone realised she had escaped.

She was manhandled back by three circus workers. One pulled her trunk, whilst another repeatedly jabbed an elephant hook into her head. The hook was used to drag her in the direction they wanted her to go.

This tool is used by circuses on their elephants and is called an ankus, or elephant hook. It can cause injuries to the skin, and is used behind the animal’s ears, where it is very sensitive.

ADI continues to monitor all UK circuses.


  1. Melissa Briggs · 17 June 2005 at 4:15a

    Thank you for the risks you take and your bravery and patience, it must be so hard to witness this sort of abominable treatment and cruelty.

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