Stop Circus Suffering

Use of circus lion in TV comedy ‘Plebs’ no laughing matter

ADI calls out TV comedy ‘Plebs’ for use of circus lion in season 3


Animal Defenders International (ADI) has called out TV comedy ‘Plebs’ for its use of a circus lion in season 3, the first episode of which was broadcast on April 4th and features the big cat. Please join us in urging production company Rise Films and ITV2 to distance themselves from the use, and suffering, of performing animals and commit to a ‘no wild animals’ policy – see our call to action below.

The lion featuring in ‘Plebs’ is a male called Tsavo, provided by Thomas Chipperfield, co-owner of the controversial wild animal circus ‘An evening with lions and tigers’. The circus withdrew its licence application to tour England last year after an inspection of the animals’ living conditions found them to be woefully inadequate.

The two lions and three tigers were found to spend the majority of their time in cages on the back of a truck known as a ‘beastwagon’. Two of the tigers shared a space just over nine square metres, barely a third of the minimum regulatory requirement. The animals were let out for three and a half hours per day, well short of the six hour limit. Despite providing a little more space for the lions and older tiger, this was also significantly short of licensing standards.

These living conditions contrast starkly with what these animals would enjoy in the wild. Female lions are the foundation of the family pride, with male lions defending their territory of up to 100 square miles, interacting with their environment. Wild tigers would roam up to 180 square miles, also engaged in their environment. In the circus, both species are forced to live on bare boards in close proximity to one another – two species that would never meet in the wild.

ADI has documented Chipperfield’s big cats exhibiting abnormal, repetitive behaviour not witnessed in the wild but commonly seen in performing animals. See our video below.

This unnatural behaviour has been described by vet Marc Abraham as “a sure sign their welfare is severely compromised”. Wildlife vet Simon Adams also states that the ability to be able to patrol their huge natural territories was “an essential behavioural drive” and that “the limited space available in a travelling circus is unsuitable to big cats”. The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) is urging “all European and national competent authorities to prohibit the use of wild mammals in travelling circuses across Europe since there is by no means the possibility that their physiological, mental and social requirements can adequately be met.”

As well as vets, the continued use of wild animals in circuses is widely opposed by animal welfare experts, animal protection groups, politicians and a huge majority of the public. In response to a consultation by Defra on the issue, 94.5% of respondents supported a ban.

Following ADI’s shocking revelations of the brutal violence and constant chaining of Anne the elephant at the Bobby Roberts Super Circus – whose owner was found guilty of offences under the Animal Welfare Act – the Government committed to ban wild animals in circuses “at the earliest opportunity”. However, despite repeated promises, and the publication of draft legislation, four years on and little progress has been made to bring the ban into law. Inaction has led to the return of big cats, with Chipperfield coming from Ireland to tour with Peter Jolly’s Circus before going it alone.

The abuse of animals for the entertainment industry is becoming more widely known and rejected by the public and the film industry. Directors Rupert Wyatt (Rise of The Planet of The Apes) and Darren Aronofsky (Noah) chose to use CGI for their extensive animal scenes.

The film industry itself is increasingly turning the spotlight on the use of animals in entertainment – Seaworld has faced severe criticism for keeping captive orca since the release of Blackfish, and ADI’s inspiring rescue of 25 lions from illegal Bolivian circuses is charted in award-winning action-documentary Lion Ark.

The suffering of animals in entertainment is no laughing matter. Please urge ‘Plebs’ and other programme makers to use CGI instead of live, performing animals.

Take action!

  • Contact Rise Films’ Managing Director Teddy Leifer at and ask that the company implement a ‘no wild animals’ policy
  • Contact ITV2 at and urge them to introduce a similar policy
  • Get active on social media – post a comment on the ‘Plebs‘ and ITV2 facebook pages and tweet @PlebsComedy @itv2 @risefilms
  • Support our campaigns on the use of animals in entertainment


  1. eoinindahouze · 6 April 2016 at 12:02a

    If I’d known it was a real lion I wouldn’t have watched the episode.

  2. me · 6 April 2016 at 12:02a


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