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Walk for animal rights and against animal circuses in Malta

Protesting against animal circuses in MaltaThe Circus Animal Rights Coalition, consisting of 20 local organisations and backed by a number of European groups, organised a Walk for Animal Rights and Against Animal Circuses as a symbolic protest at the presence of 'Circo Fantasy' in Malta. The walk left at 6pm from City Gate Valletta and proceeded on foot towards the circus area in Blata l-Bajda which is about two kilometres away. It is estimated that more than 300 animal lovers joined forces to protest against the cruelty involved in circuses.

The protesters carried two large banners and numerous smaller ones. A considerable number of policemen lined the route, some of them equipped with video cameras. The Coalition had obtained all the necessary permits for the protest walk in advance. On arriving in the area were the circus was taking place they were told by the police to stay about fifty metres away from the main entrance of the circus. The protesters were "caged" behind iron barricades as a safety precaution. For more than two and a half hours the demonstrators chanted songs and slogans against circus cruelty. They remained peaceful and disciplined throughout. Local organisers and members of the fantasy circus stood at the main entrance to the circus but there were no violent incidents.

Libel suits filed over cruelty claims

Acting on behalf of Circo Fantasy, JS Productions Ltd filed two separate libel suits against the Director General of the Education Directorate, Micheline Sciberras and Ms Delia, a TV personality who promotes animal issues and animal welfare on the local national TV station.

In the first case, the circus filed a judicial protest against Ms Sciberras because she had said she only allowed school outings when there was an educational element and nowadays there was "an increased awareness of animal rights". According to the circus, her words implied that the circus did not have an educational or cultural value that was recognized by the European Parliament and that the circus was in breach of animal rights.

The suit against Ms Delia was filed over claims she made on 8 December on the radio and on PBS, during which she said circuses were cruel to animals.

Such allegations had a negative impact on the circus' reputation and the circus held Ms Sciberras and Ms Delia liable for damages suffered. Circus representatives denied the allegations of cruelty and the Animal Welfare Department said that simply keeping animals in cages and using them for entertainment did not constitute animal cruelty. Government vets inspected the circus soon after it arrived in Malta and gave it the all-clear.

Although the Coalition had contacted the Animal Welfare Directorate back in September, asking the Director Dr Mario Spiteri to take any action within his power to prevent such circuses from coming to Malta, there had been no acknowledgement at all of this request. The Coalition was also bitterly disappointed by the comments made by the Animal Welfare Directorate. The Coalition’s campaign has been gathering a great deal of public support and a good number of people, including children, have signed the petition against the use of animals in entertainment. Consequently, the campaigners are highly dismayed by the fact that, notwithstanding the public's increasing opposition to the exploitation of animals in circuses, JS Productions persists year after year to make a profit from shows featuring performing animals.

The Circus Animal Rights Coalition was set up to raise awareness of the cruelty that lies behind the circus. Animals used in circuses are unwilling participants in a show that destroys their health and their psychological well-being. They are forced, often through painful and punitive methods, to perform tricks that are contradictory to their innate instincts and behaviour which results in substantial injuries during performance and training.

Furthermore, animals in circuses have to endure travelling long distances and being kept in unsuitable and often precarious conditions. An unnatural climate often contributes to their suffering. These factors exacerbate the stress caused by their confinement and long hours on the road.

The Coalition emphasises that, even if conditions were improved and humane methods of training were used, keeping wild animals in captivity deprives them of much of what they value in life. The animals have to live in an environment drastically different from their natural habitat and their spirits are broken from harsh training and from being unable to fulfil some of their most basic needs.

For the above-mentnioned reasons, the Coalition had asked the relevant Maltese authorities several times to stop allowing circuses with animals to perform in Malta.

The Coalition is calling on Church schools and Private schools, local councils, clubs, companies and other workplaces to refrain from organising group visits to these cruel shows and to opt for one of the equally entertaining and humane alternatives.

The Coalition states that its members genuinely care for the rights and welfare of animals and have nothing to gain personally from its campaign against animal circuses, those involved in circuses are plainly in it for the money and for personal gain.