Roll Up! Roll Up!

‘Roll up! Roll up!’ Cried the circus man, the traditional call that we hear on old films, as people flock to see the exotic attractions. Lions, tigers and bears, oh my! All of them assembled neatly, ready for your entertainment! How exciting! How thrilling! As we watch a brave individual grapple with these animals, getting them to perform however he or she choses. So, do you fancy a trip to the circus? To learn about animals and watch a magnificent performance? My answer? No thanks.

As some of you may be aware, there was a sudden increase in publicity for a certain circus in the past few months. It is called Chipperfield’s circus, and unfortunately, it includes captive animals, including lions and tigers. The attraction of these circus’s is of course, the animals. They are magnificent and they are an attraction, but I for one do not want to see them performing tricks and locked away in cages. Such animals should be in the wild, doing what their instinct tells them, not jumping through hoops and running round and round for everyone’s entertainment. These are not domesticated animals, they are not dogs who have been with humans for thousands of years of their evolution and they are being paraded like mindless beasts. In all honesty, I cannot see how this is still permitted in this day and age. It would not be accepted if humans were treated this way and rightly so. If I were to gather my family and friends and lock them in cages all day, only letting them out to make them perform for amusement, which I made money from, I’d be arrested! Not only that, I would be locked in a white, padded circular room and stared at through a small plastic window. So why can we do this to our animals?

Looking at that photograph, it’s shameful. So, what’s all this about the Chipperfield circus? Well, unfortunately, they have appeared on a number of BBC shows, including the One Show and Radio 2, essentially plugging the show. As if it’s quite all right for everyone to go along and have a good day at the expense of the animals. Of course, the circus argues that the animals are treated well and they enjoy themselves. Well, that last comment is debatable. They can’t speak, so how would you know if they enjoy themselves? They know nothing else, doesn’t mean they enjoy such an existence. But this is not just a case of captivity. Obviously, we all know about zoos, safari parks etc, and that is not exactly ‘wild’. But the issue we’re facing here is performing animals. One of Thomas Chipperfield’s arguments is that his animals ‘live longer.’ As if this automatically means he is doing a good job. Well, isn’t it ‘quality not quantity’? I might live longer if I were put in  a cage and not exposed to the outside world, but I don’t want to.

Another argument, and one that was raised on ‘The View’ after the Tilikum orca attack at Seaworld, was that this is how children learn about animals. By going to the circus apparently and watching animals do things that they would never do in the wild. They may get to see them, but they would learn nothing about their natural habitat, their behaviour or their distribution. It’s certainly not how I learned about animals. I learned by watching documentaries, documentaries in the wilderness, lead by a true pro, David Attenborough. If I have my own children, I won’t be taking them to the circus to learn about animals. That is how they learn about cruelty, and even then, I wouldn’t be going.

In addition, its dangerous. For the animal and the trainer. In 2013, American trainer Alexander Crispin was killed by a Bengal tiger in a live show. The animal was trained and had performed in shows before. So why did he attack? Well, maybe he just snapped. This is after all a wild animal. They are unpredictable. I’m not saying that Mr Crispin deserved to lose his life, of course not! But incidents like this prove how dangerous these shows can be. And what happened to the tiger? He was probably (reportedly) beaten to death as the other trainers tried to get him to release Mr Crispin.

Circus’s are outdated full stop. They are not something that should weave in and out of fashion. They should not exist, not when they include animals at least. I have a very old memory of being at my Grandfather’s house when I was very young. I can’t remember what was on the television, whether it was a film or what, but it showed a bear performing in a circus. As a child I didn’t think, and the first thing I said was ‘Look Granddad! He’s got a bear!’ To which he replied, ‘That’s not a bear darling. It was, but not now, the poor *******’. There’s some truth in that I think.

Thomas Chipperfield has been publicised as ‘the last of our Lion tamers’. Let’s hope so. One species, which I am not interested in saving from extinction.















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Eleanor Daisy Upstill-Goddard
I have been a bird enthusiast since I was a child and have just completed my MSc at Newcastle University on 'Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Management.'
Eleanor Daisy Upstill-Goddard

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