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Spate of circus animal escapes from Europe to China proves it’s time for total ban

01 December 2017

Animal Voices

From the boulevards of Paris to the streets of China, escaped circus animals have caused chaos and threatened lives - countries have to act.

By Animals Asia’s Animal Welfare Director Dave Neale

The events of the past week have made it abundantly clear that governments around the world must act now to end the life-threatening chaos of allowing circuses to exploit wild animals as performers.

A week of mayhem began on Wednesday 22 November, in China’s Henan province when a travelling circus arrived in a town square ahead of a show. Circus workers simply left trucks laden with caged tigers out in the plaza while they went about their business - little wonder that disaster followed.

Soon curious observers began to approach the cages, one of whom was a pensioner who had allegedly been drinking. Footage showed him putting his hand into a cage reportedly to feed one of the tigers. Unsurprisingly he was mauled as the animal bit hard on his hand, refusing to let go.

The man eventually fainted before circus workers freed his arm by beating the tiger with sticks. He was rushed to hospital but his middle finger had been entirely bitten off and he lost half of his ring finger.

Two days later, circus chaos arrived on the streets of Paris’ 15th arrondissement. A 200kg female tiger - escaped from a travelling circus - was found walking the streets prompting the animal’s owner to shoot her to death.

The 18-month-old tiger, known as Mevy, had been born and brought up in the circus before being shot to death by the same man who had bottle-fed her as a cub.

That same weekend, it was the citizens of Linfen in China’s Shanxi province who were in fear for their lives as a tiger escaped its circus cage. Footage showed the tiger attacking one man from behind while another person beat it with a stick as bystanders fled in sheer panic.

Xiamen Haicang Safari Park_JLAU_ESAA_dec13 (1)

Media reported that two children were injured during the terrifying incident before the tiger was returned to the cage.

One week, three shocking incidents - what will it take for governments around the world to say enough is enough?

In Europe, just 13 member states of the EU have banned wild animals from circuses, and this is despite polls showing overwhelming support for bans.

In the UK, 95% are said to oppose the use of wild animals in circuses - yet there is still no ban.

Performance of a monkey with a bleeding hippopotamus Hangzhou Safari Park, China

There has been some progress on the issue but it could be far better. In March 2015, just 19 countries had bans on circus performances involving both wild animals and domestic animals. Today, just over 40 countries have some kind of ban in place.

Some of these countries have enacted a total ban on the use of animals in circuses, others have limited performances to certain species. About 10 countries have introduced bans at local or provincial level while many other places are considering a clampdown, according to animal welfare campaigners.

It’s time for common-sense to prevail. There is no gain from the exploitation of wild animals in circuses.

The animals suffer most of all through the humiliation of being reduced to a play-thing, the abuse inherent in training and the completely unnatural actions they are forced to carry out.

But people suffer too. Human safety is at risk, while our children are sent entirely the wrong message about majestic animals.

The circus industry proves animal cruelty knows no borders. This is truly a global problem, representing cruelty on an international scale and it requires a global solution.

Every living creature must have the freedom to exhibit natural behaviour and should be treated with respect and dignity. There is nothing natural about an elephant perched precariously on two legs or balancing on a beach ball.

Countries must do their bit by legislating against this practice but we can all do ours by refusing to attend these outrageous displays of animal suffering.

READ MORE: Think animal performances are banned where you live? Think again.

Xiamen Lingling Circus_jun14 (43)