Poster designs by China’s animal welfare activists are at the centre of a campaign to persuade local people and tourists not to attend an international circus festival in Zhuhai, Southern China.
Although government bans have been put in place to stop animal performance, the First China International Circus Festival has gone ahead, complete with animal attractions, despite widespread protest from local and international animal welfare campaigners.
With organisers expecting the circus to promote and benefit the region, activists are determined to demonstrate that animal cruelty only shows the area in a negative light.
Having started this week, the event will carry on until early December, during which the posters against animal performance will be displayed at train stations in Zhuhai and surrounding areas. Under the slogan “Not Born to Perform” they graphically highlight the cruelty involved in animal performance.
The posters are as a result of an Animals Asia Competition this year with the aim of encouraging local designers to come up with images to counter future animal performances.
Animals Asia is also one of 31 organisations that has put its name to a letter sent to the Ministry of Culture by Chinese NGO, Nature University. The letter reminds the MoC that it is effectively breaking its own government’s guidelines against animal performance as put in place by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and State Forestry Bureau.
The international acts include elephants and chimpanzees from Thailand as well as dog shows. Other reports have also suggested Bengal tigers will perform. Concern has also been raised over the transportation of animals from overseas.
Recently campaigners in Jinan were celebrating when local objections shut down an animal performance with assistance from local authorities. But with the First China International Circus Festival going ahead - questions are being asked as to why the rules are being overlooked on this occasion.
Animals Asia’s Animal Welfare Director Dave Neale said:
“There is huge investment involved and we know that is what we are up against. This is not just about a circus - the festival is seen as promoting tourism and investment in the region. We argue that they couldn’t be more wrong - animal performance has no place in modern China and negative international reports on the festival further damages China’s image.
“There is a double failure here - firstly by allowing this festival they are attracting negative headlines rather than the positive interest they’d hoped for. Secondly by completely failing to understand modern and international attitudes to animal cruelty they are demonstrating an incredibly old-fashioned outlook. We hope that when local people and tourists see our posters they’ll think twice before attending. Investing in animal performance in order to promote an area is entirely misguided on so many levels. Why invest in a sunset industry?”
Animals Asia founder Jill Robinson added:
"The astonishing thing is how people in China are no longer tolerating performances that see such obvious exploitation and suffering to the animal entertainers. The outcry would have been unthinkable even five years ago. The fact is today so many people here see animals as much more than playthings to make them laugh for just a few seconds in a ring."