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Under pressure circuses say they will end wild animal performance – but ban is still vital for Vietnam

20 June 2018

In response to Animals Asia’s call for a ban and allegations of illegality and widespread abuse, circus bosses say they plan switch to domestic animals.

Since Animals Asia publicly released their report into animal performance in Vietnam, the country’s circuses have been scrambling to defend themselves.

The report revealed 19 species were being abused, six of which are protected under Vietnamese law and their sale or exploitation for commercial purposes banned.

A shocking 100% of the 16 facilities investigated failed to meet the animals’ basic needs with hundreds of animals being kept in isolation in tiny cages or chained up for long periods of time.

The story has become a hot talking point in Vietnam with over 80 articles being published in more than 53 separate news outlets in just a few weeks.

In response,Tong Toan Thang, Deputy Director of the Vietnam Circus Federation told media that the recorded cruelty had been exaggerated, while claiming animal performances to be an “essential symbol” of his federation.

Hoang Minh Khanh, Head of the Vietnam Circus Arts and Variety Show School, is reported to have claimed all their animals are well-treated and legally sourced – although no organisation has yet explained where the protected species have come from.

Khanh has even been quoted saying, “the living conditions in a circus might be even better for wild animals than living in the wild”.

awful housing compilation

The Director of the Vietnam Circus Federation, Ta Duy Anh, has attempted to muddy the waters, pointing out that wild animal performance is still legal in many other countries around the world including France and Italy, while England and the USA are other prominent examples.

But despite Anh’s defense of the industry, he also announced his federation’s plan to phase out wild animal performances. He told reporters they would switch to domesticated animals and transfer the wild animals to Hanoi Zoo. 

However, he gave no timeframe for such a move.

The ostrich is forced to ride

Animals Asia Animal Welfare Director Dave Neale said:

“It is good to hear that circuses are already considering ending their use of animals such as macaques, bears and elephants. These are wild animals and suffer immensely due to the conditions under which they are forced to live and train.

“But Vietnam urgently needs a ban on wild animal performance to stop new animal circuses emerging and to make it clear to the people that this form of cruel, outdated entertainment is not part of Vietnam’s future."

The federation’s stated aim of concentrating on domestic animal performance has also attracted criticism.

Domesticated animals used in performance in Hanoi circus, 2017

Dave said:

“The plan to focus on domestic animals is deeply worrying.

“The major concern with the use of any domesticated animal is how the animals are housed throughout the day, the methods used to train them and the tricks they are being asked to perform.

“If the dogs are kept on chains or housed in small cages in isolation for large proportions of their day – as we have recorded in a number of Vietnamese circuses – then this is not acceptable.

“If they are trained through physical punishment or food deprivation or are asked to perform tricks which cause or put them at risk of harm – as we have recorded taking place – then this is also unacceptable.

“This is an issue of welfare, and if any animal is forced into a position where their welfare is being compromised, then we will not support this use.”

Now is the time to call for change. Sign the petition asking the Vietnam government to end the cruelty and wildlife crime by banning wild animal performances, and allowing the animals to be sent to sanctuaries and rescue centres.