Thursday 27 October 2016

Circuses that use wild animals are banned from city council lands

Rosanna Davison
Rosanna Davison

Circuses featuring wild animals have been banned from operating on land owned by Dublin City Council.

Councillors passed a motion on Monday night that forbids circuses from operating on land owned by the council if they feature non-domestic animals such as lions, tigers or hippos.

The move was welcomed by the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA), which said the use of wild animals for entertainment was no longer acceptable and subjects them to unnecessary stress and health problems.

Former Miss World and animal rights activist Rosanna Davison had also called for the ban.

"It's simply unacceptable for astonishing animals like elephants, lions and tigers to be deprived of everything that's natural and important to them, just so that spectators can watch them perform ridiculous and often painful tricks," she said in a letter to DCC.

Brian Gillen, DSPCA chief executive, said: "Animals used in wild animal circuses cannot engage in natural behaviour, are transported in cramped conditions, and are often chained or caged for up to 23 hours a day."

"Many animals suffer from psychological disorders and chronic health problems and the life expectancy can be very low. The ban reflects the awareness and understanding of the needs and behaviour of animals unsuitable for this type of captivity and this ban is a good step forward in the battle to end all animal cruelty in Ireland."

However, because the ban only covers council-owned land, there is nothing stopping circuses from featuring wild animals if they operate on privately-owned land.

Circus owners contacted by the Herald last night said the council's ban was effectively toothless because they haven't used wild animals for years.

Mark Duffy, of Tom Duffy's Circus, called the ban "irrelevant" even though the family- run circus does rent council land on Alfie Byrne Road near the Clontarf Dart station for its annual circus.


Despite images of lions and tigers painted on its circus vans at a circus being held in Co Wicklow, Mr Duffy said the circus now only uses domestic animals such as horses, ponies and llamas.

Although it was the only circus in Ireland to feature lions and tigers, he said the show was now more geared towards traditional acrobatic acts, which were in full swing when the Herald visited the circus last night.

Charles O'Brien, managing director of Fossett's Circus, which is the longest continuous- running circus in the world, said they stopped featuring wild animals in its shows about eight years ago.

"Touring with large exotic animals wasn't viable," he said.

While cost was the main reason to phase them out, he said he agreed with the DCC's ban.

"We'd endorse anything to do with animal welfare," he told the Herald. "We can understand this from the council's perspective. Councils are under increasing pressure to ensure animal welfare," he said.

He said most modern circuses were returning to their roots when they started off as equestrian shows in the 18th century and later combined feats of human skill, like acrobatics and jugglers.

"People are interested in the circus now, but it's more about juggling, magic, dance and acrobatic," he said.

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