Stop Circus Suffering

Closure of Siegfried and Roy Show in Las Vegas

ADI comments that the closure of the Siegfried and Roy Show in Las Vegas is not just a consequence of the attack on Roy Horn by a white tiger, but a sign of the times.

20th October 2013: On the 10th anniversary of the attack on Roy Horn by one of his tigers during a performance, a circus acrobat whose child was mauled by a Siegfried and Roy leopard in 1976 has spoken about the attack. The child, who performed with his mother and was only ten years old at the time, suffered serious injuries to his head and neck and was hospitalized for three weeks. Read the article…

13th October 2003: Animal Defenders International (ADI) stated today that the closure of the Siegfried and Roy Show in Las Vegas is not just a consequence of the attack on Roy Horn by a white tiger, but a sign of the times.

ADI Chief Executive, Jan Creamer, who has seen the Siegfried and Roy Show, said: “The attack on Roy Horn confirmed that the Las Vegas stage and the Big Top are simply no place for animals. Aside from the problems of coercion and confinement that animals used for entertainment so often endure, this is a reminder that these are wild animals, with wild instincts, and they are dangerous. In addition, you only need to look at the phenomenal success of Cirque du Soliel in Las Vegas, with their animal free performances to see where the future lies.”


This weekend the final 202 employees of Siegfried and Roy at The Mirage were told that Show will not go on, although the Siegfried and Roy zoo on the site known as the “Secret Garden” will remain open. Roy Horn remains in critical condition, whilst the tiger, Montecore, that attacked him has apparently been isolated – placed in “quarantine” as The Mirage states.

ADI is concerned what will happen to in the region of 60 animals owned by Siegfried and Roy. The show itself, when it was observed by ADI involved 15 animals (1 snow leopard; 2 male lions; 3 lionesses; 1 white tiger without stripes; 11 month old white tiger; 4 white tigers; 1 white tiger cub; 1 elephant; 1 Burmese python).

During the show these animals were predominantly, used in illusions where they were seemingly made to appear and disappear. This inevitably means confining the animal in a small space for the illusion, and during the Siegfried & Roy show, this included suspending a tiger in cage from the ceiling. An elephant, Gildah, who is used in one of the acts was controlled on stage by a handler who had an elephant hook barely concealed in his sleeve. There is concern that the majority, if not all, of the cats in the act have had their claws removed in order to make them safer. This mutilation robs them of the ability to perform many natural behaviours.

Tim Phillips, Campaigns Director of ADI, who has worked undercover in circuses caring for tigers said: “The Siegfried and Roy show was on a big budget, with over eighty human performers in addition to the 15 animals, but it was still really the same old tacky circus tricks. Shows like that of Siegfried and Roy do not increase our understanding of animals, but rather convince people that animals are toys to use as we please. As shocking as it is, attacks like the one on Roy Horn are inevitable.”

He adds: “We are pleased that they have called time on this archaic entertainment. We hope that Roy will recover and that Siegfried and Roy will return to the stage with just their 88 human performers. A Las Vegas theatre really is no place for animals.”

Jan Creamer said: “We don’t doubt the theatre in The Mirage will soon be hosting a new act, but we are concerned for the future of the animals. Montecore, it seems is already in isolation for simply doing what came naturally and there are some 60 other animals that are no longer needed. Over the years these performers have made millions of dollars from these animals, now there is an opportunity for Siegfried and Roy to pay them back by retiring them humanely and with dignity.”

ADI has called on The MGM Mirage and Siegfried and Roy to issue a clear statement on the future of these animals. ADI has also called for an end to the controversial breeding programme for white tigers whereby animals are intensively in-bred.

The famous Siegfried & Roy White Tigers
ADI is also highly critical of claims that Siegfried and Roy are helping to preserve rare white tigers. ADI believes these animals are being bred purely for their entertainment value and there is no possibility of these animals being returned to the wild, in addition there are serious concerns about the in breeding necessary to create all of these white animals.

It is believed that all the white tigers in captivity have been bred from one white male, Mohan, caught in India in 1951 and an orange female inhabiting the same forest. To produce the white tiger requires inbreeding, the name given to the mating of related animals. Mohan was successively bred with his own daughter and then granddaughter. This practice of inbreeding was used further to produce the present zoo and Las Vegas population.

Inbreeding is almost always harmful and gives rise to a condition called inbreeding depression. Typically inbreeding has harmful effects on an animal’s capacity to survive and reproduce successfully. Highly inbred species are vulnerable to extinction. In particular, inbreeding increases the likelihood that certain harmful traits that are normally kept in check in a population will surface.

The inbreeding required to produce white tigers has meant they are more liable to diseases than their orange counterparts. Litter sizes have gone down and the number of early deaths has increased. In addition a large number of other health problems have arisen for the white tiger, at least partly due to this inbreeding. Apart from early death and reduced numbers of offspring these include frequent stillbirths, pneumonia, congestion of the lungs, inflammation of the intestines, the kidney not developing properly, weakening of the eyes, neck twisting, shortness of legs, arching of the backbone and sexual disinterest.

There is also evidence that the white tiger suffers from various sight problems, which are not just the result of inbreeding but are particular to this species variant. Cross-eyed white tigers are not an uncommon occurrence and abnormal development of the nerves carrying visual information to the brain may be relatively widespread in this animal.

Many of the white tigers to be found in zoos and circuses are in fact hybrids, that is, they are not pure bred white tigers but crosses of the two distinct subspecies of the Bengal and the Siberian tiger.

Tim Phillips, Campaigns Director of ADI said: “Circus animals and animals used in shows, like those in Las Vegas, are often extremely in-bred which can cause problems in itself. Add to that the extremely unnatural environment, the noise, the lights, and the proximity of the audience, and it is really a recipe for disaster.”

Animal Acts in the UK
In the UK, the public has largely turned their backs on animal acts. Much of this is due to the evidence ADI has revealed concerning the use of animals in circuses, which led to the prosecution and conviction of animal trainer Mary Chipperfield and her husband Roger Cawley (who also used to breed and supply white tigers). A survey of UK circuses released this year by ADI shows that when ADI released its findings, the number of animal circuses in the UK almost halved immediately, and the decline has continued year on year ever since. This year, just one circus toured the UK with tigers – the Great British Circus. In recent years the trainer of those animals was himself mauled and hospitalised.

Tim Phillips said: “We hope that this incident in Las Vegas will serve as a wake-up call for the UK government. This autumn, the government has an opportunity, with the Animal Welfare Bill, to end the use of animals in travelling circuses. The Liberal Democrats last month voted to ban wild animals from circuses, and governments in Costa Rica and Singapore have already passed such legislation. ADI has shown, time and time again how these animals suffer – it is vital that the UK government does not miss this opportunity.”

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