Animal supporters in uproar over council's circus U-turn
August 23, 2010
"A pampered life" ... Matt Ezekial, a lion trainer at Stardust Circus, gets cosy with a couple of lions. The circus argues lions live much longer in captivity. Photo: Brendan Esposito
ANIMAL welfare groups have denounced a decision by Ku-ring-gai Council to overturn a 10-year ban on the use of animals in circuses.
The RSPCA said it was ''gobsmacked'' by the ''archaic'' decision to allow circuses with animals such as lions, elephants and tigers back on to council land.
"In animal welfare the wheels of change move frustratingly slow, but they do tend to move forward, so this decision by Ku-ring-gai is not only disappointing, it's bizarre," said the RSPCA's NSW chief executive, Steve Coleman.
Advertisement: Story continues below"The science has been in for a very long time - circus life cannot meet the social, behavioural or physical needs of wild animals.''
He said animals in circuses were kept in close confinement in unnatural social groups and were constantly transported from venue to venue.
"Research shows that the life of a circus animal leads to stress and boredom, and often results in abnormal behaviours or stereotypes, such as repetitive pacing or swaying.''
A solicitor advocate with a pro bono animal law service, Jillian Field, described the decision as ''abhorrent''.
''It's extraordinary and shocking,'' she said. ''It's sending children the message that it's acceptable to use animals for amusement and profit.''
Ms Field said the use of circus animals should be banned nationally, as it is in countries including Austria, Bolivia and Singapore. She called on the public to boycott such circuses.
But the decision was welcomed by the owner of Stardust Circus, Jan Lennon, and her son, Glenn West, a lion tamer.
''Finally a council is using its brains,'' Mr West said.
''We get inspected regularly by the government departments and there is a code of practice we have to abide by.''
Ms Lennon, whose circus has lions, monkeys, ponies and dogs, said that, contrary to stories spread by activist groups, there was ''no cruelty to animals in the circus whatsoever''.
''We have a huge enclosure for our lions … They live a pampered life. And they live a lot longer in captivity. It's about 10 to 12 years in the wild but ours live until 22 or 23,'' she said.
The Ku-ring-gai Council decision, made a fortnight ago, was apparently sparked by a petition, signed by 223 people, seeking permission for Webers Circus to feature performances by ponies and dogs at St Ives Showground.
Ku-ring-gai's deputy mayor, Jennifer Anderson, originally responded to the Webers petition with a motion to allow only domestic animals in circuses, but Cr Elaine Malicki proposed the amendment, which permits all animals in circuses on council property.
Cr Tony Hall, whose casting vote in 1999 confirmed the ban and who voted against the overturning, called the decision a ''shameful act''.
He said he had contacted Animals Asia Foundation to help establish an online petition to lobby the council to change its decision. By last night, it had been signed by 689 people.