Circus protest draws crowds in Malta
In spite of the fact that 8 December is a public holiday in Malta, with a number of towns and villages celebrating religious feasts, a crowd of more than 300 animal lovers gathered to protest against a travelling circus with animals which opened its doors to the public on the same day.
The protest set off from City Gate, Valletta and proceeded to Floriana where the circus is located. The protest was organised by the Coalition for Animal Rights. Apart from animal rights groups based in Malta, a number of other groups mainly from the University, Junior College and the College of Arts, Science and Technology, also joined in. Among the celebrities participating in the protest was a famous Maltese premier league footballer and the leader of the most popular band in Malta.
While the circus animals were giving their first performance the 300 strong protesters started their walk towards the circus tent in the presence of about 20 police officers. The protesters were told by the police to stay about 30 metres away from the main circus entrance. The police set up iron barriers between the circus entrance and the demonstrators.
The protesters were equipped with drums, whistles, banners and placards. The protest was a peaceful one and no incidents were reported. In an effort to drown out what the protesters were saying the circus management turned the music up full blast. However, a delegation from the coalition reminded the police that the loud music was against the law and would be upsetting the animals. The police intervened and the music was turned down.
The main attraction at the event was a protester dressed as a tiger in a cage. Every now and then the tiger, which pretended to escape from captivity, was beaten by a 'trainer.'
As well as attracting local passersby, the protest drew the attention of a large number of British and German tourists who were touring Valletta. They supported the action being taken and congratulated the organisers of the protest for the good job. They took photographs for the protesters and promised they would not visit the circus during their stay in Malta. A large number of flyers were distributed to passersby urging them not to visit the circus.
Max Farrugia, from International Animal Rescue said that the organisers were pleased that school children were not to be taken to the circus or to other places where animals are being used to entertain the public. But on the other hand he expressed his disappointment that a number of local councils had decided to organise groups, mainly of elderly people, and were taking them to the circus as what they described as a "cultural tour". He added that as from next year, apart from talks to schools and other groups, the coalition would organise other activities during the year to keep the public informed of what was happening.
Among the animals that are being used in Circo Martin from Italy are a hippo, two bears, two lions, a tiger, a camel, three wild pigs, parrots, horses and Scottish bulls. On the morning of the protest journalists were taken round by the organisers of the circus to try to prove that no cruelty is involved. One journalist wrote that he was disappointed when one of the bears, 27 year old Natasha, was brought over and he saw that she was wearing a muzzle. When she did not obey the orders of Maxi the trainer, the latter started shouting at her and returned her to her small cage next to another bear. Journalists also reported that some of the animals, particularly a lion and the hippo were very agitated. The animals had endured a journey from Sardinia by both land and sea.