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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Green Euro-MP calls for end to animals in circuses

Tiger cubs at the Great British Circus (photo: CAPS)Kent's Green Euro-MP has called for an end to the exploitation of wild animals kept in captivity for ‘entertainment', as the controversial Martin Lacey's Great British Circus brings its performing animals show to Tonbridge in Kent this week.

Caroline Lucas MEP has expressed serious concern about the welfare of the animals kept by the Lincolnshire-based circus, which is the last one in the UK to parade big cats and one of just three that still uses wild animals. It boasts on its website that it has the largest collection of wild animals touring Britain, with three elephants, tigers, lions, zebras, camels, llamas, horses, ponies, goats and reindeer.

A long time animal protection campaigner and a Vice President of the RSPCA, Dr Lucas MEP is currently challenging the exemption of circus animals from EU legislation which regulates standards for live animals in transportation - with a view to initiating a crackdown on the continued use of wild animals in circuses.

Dr Lucas MEP said: "Touring circuses may cover thousands of miles a year, with animals being confined for hours in temporary accommodation. In such conditions, it is impossible to provide them with the facilities they need.

"In the wild, large animals such as big cats are social creatures, living and travelling in groups or herds. In circuses, they live in mobile wagons and often spend most of the day chained up. If they are lucky, they might have access to a grassed electric fenced enclosure or slightly larger exercise area.

"This lifestyle prevents them from being able to perform natural behaviours like hunting, playing and grooming, increasing the likelihood of abnormal behaviours such as rocking, swaying, and pacing."

Animal welfare organisations have also reported that spikes, brooms and rods are used cruelly during the training of circus animals, and that claims by circus owners that their trade is involved in conservation and education are invalid.

Alan Knight OBE, Chief Executive of Sussex-based International Animal Rescue, said: "Dr Lucas's account of the lives of circus animals is depressingly accurate. We applaud her efforts within the EU to end the use of animals in circuses for good. In the meantime, we urge the British public to stay away from a spectacle that is neither entertaining nor educational. For a magnificent animal like an elephant to be robbed of its freedom and its dignity and made to perform a series of mundane tricks is no longer acceptable in this day and age. This is one circus where the show must not go on."

Dr Lucas concluded: "I join with International Animal Rescue, Animal Aid in Tonbridge, and other animal welfare campaigners in calling on local people who are concerned about animal welfare to stay away from this sad display. The once-popular travelling freak shows have been relegated to the past where they belong, and now the EU must ensure the same fate for animal circuses."