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Don't miss 'The Performance'

A big man with a big heart and a profound understanding of how any living being suffers behind bars. In the 1980s Terry Waite CBE made several trips to Lebanon to free hostages, before being taken captive himself from 20th January 1987 in Beirut. A hostage for 1,763 days, Terry was in total solitary confinement for four long years before finally being released on 18th November 1991.

I met Terry during our UK Roadshow in 2008 and watched in silence – along with everyone else in that awestruck room – as Terry spoke about his experiences and how he related so poignantly with the suffering of caged and abused bears on farms across China and Vietnam.

Now, Terry is helping the animals once again in his narration of a new film, where he speaks of mindless cruelty inflicted on thinking, sentient animals – the most voiceless victims of them all. He is talking about circus animals – forced to perform degrading and humiliating tricks for “our” entertainment in a film called “The Performance”, which features safari parks across China.

The film has been produced through our partnership with the fabulous Ella Waite and her team at Environment Films, and uses footage taken largely by our Animal Welfare Director Dave Neale, who was helped enormously during hours of exhaustive investigation by our China Animal Welfare Officer Lisa Yang and Irene Feng our China Dr Dog Manager in Guangzhou and Sailing Wang, our PR Officer in Chengdu.

Joining Dave and team during some of these investigations towards the end of last year, once again I watched performances which saw a burning rage in my heart. Particularly during the moments when elephants were forced to stand on their heads causing them much pain, or on one leg, spinning like a top – humiliated and wearing ridiculous costumes on their bodies.

Or the memorable day watching one of the trainers smash a young moon bear in the face with his fist when he didn’t understand how to skip. It was more than I could stand – and from nowhere expletives came from my mouth as a bear so miserable and confused was punched and punched again, until she got it right. All this before being locked away in the dirt and the dark – in cages behind the stage – waiting for the next performance with its bright lights, loud music and a screaming crowd who would learn nothing about the animals themselves.

As Terry said in the film, that’s all they have in their lives – and he was angry because he knew how they felt. He asks the viewer to take a moment to think how much you’ve done in the past couple of years, how many places you’ve been to, how many things you’ve experienced – and then to remember that these animals have been suffering in their confinement and pain throughout all of this time.

Thank you Terry for your connection and kindness – for describing events of your past which must be painful to recall, and for relating the animals’ physical and psychological pain with yours. Thank you Ella and your team for creating such a stunning and heart-wrenching documentary – and thank you Dave, and Lisa, Irene, Rainbow and Sailing and all in our Education team in Chengdu for bringing us closer to when the misery, and those countless cruel “performances” must end.

Please click here now to read our full report, to see "The Performance" and help the voiceless performers.

It seems unbelievable that following the exposure of performing animals in China, our Australian Director Anne Lloyd Jones in Sydney read the news that the Ku-ring-gai Council on Sydney's North Shore has recently rescinded its ban on performing exotic animals in circuses, which was introduced in 1999. 

Anne quickly began a petition that so far has seen over 600 signatures and comments from all over the world asking for the ban to be reinforced on the grounds that teaching animals to perform inappropriate tricks does nothing to educate the public or foster respect for animals.

Thank you to all our supporters who have added their voices to the campaign already and to the RSPCA NSW for declaring they were "gob smacked by Ku-ring-gai Council’s archaic decision to overturn a policy to allow circuses with exotic animals back on to council land".

Sign and make a difference in Australia

Please take a minute to “sign” the petition online. It’s easy – just click here. We have until Tuesday, 24 August to get enough signatures to have this ridiculous decision reversed.

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