Circus defends animal rights record

Animal Liberation ACT members Sarah Taylor and Courtney Dahlenburg protest against the circus in Queanbeyan. Photo: Elesa Lee
Animal Liberation ACT members Sarah Taylor and Courtney Dahlenburg protest against the circus in Queanbeyan. Photo: Elesa Lee

ANIMAL rights activists have vowed to come out in force to protest against the use of exotic animals for entertainment at the Queanbeyan Showgrounds this month.

The Stardust Circus is the largest circus in Australia still using exotic animals such as lions and monkeys in its show.

The circus, including the animals, trainers and a host of human entertainers, will call the Queanbeyan Showgrounds home until May 6.

Wamboin resident Jessica Ferry will join about 40 activists from Animal Liberation ACT at the showground gates on opening night tonight.

The group will be armed with banners and costumes as they protest against the confinement and regular travel the animals undergo as part of the circus.

The protesters also delivered a letter to Queanbeyan City Council on Monday requesting councillors move to stop exotic animal circuses from leasing council land.

‘‘Forty other municipalities in Australia have actually banned the use of exotic animals in circuses. The ACT banned them in 1992,’’ Ms Ferry said.

‘‘Basically we are asking the council why they still think it is appropriate when so many studies show that circuses are not great places for non-domesticated animals. They can’t live out their natural behaviour.

‘‘We aren’t actually saying [Stardust Circus] treats these animals badly, we are saying the use of these animals in entertainment is not appropriate.’’

Ms Ferry said the campaign was aimed at both Queanbeyan residents and their ACT counterparts who came across the border to see the circus this school holidays.

‘‘We want to get the message out there that there are other forms of entertainment,’’ she said.

‘‘There are other circuses that can survive using human-based skills. What does it say to our children that they learn about lions and monkeys by seeing them locked in their little yards before they come out for a show and do tricks before going back into their yards?’’

Ms Ferry said the protest at the showground gates would help to raise public awareness about the use of animals for entertainment.

Police were called during similar protests against the Lennon Brothers circus last April after heated arguments erupted been protesters and circus patrons at the showground gates.

‘‘We would like people to boycott the circus,’’ Ms Ferry said. ‘‘These animals will be doing 30 performances while they are here and we will be trying to be at as many of them as we can to show the circus and to show Queanbeyan Council that circuses with animals are not welcome.’’

Stardust Circus ringmaster Adam St James said all animals the animals in the circus are trained using a reward method and are treated as part of the family.

Mr St James said the circus also follows a strict code of practice that was set down by agreement with the government and the involvement of animal rights groups such as the RSPCA.

Neither Stardust nor the Lennon Brothers Circus have ever had a conviction of animal cruelty in more than century of operation.

‘‘And that is something we are very proud of,’’ Mr St James said.

‘‘All of our animals are part of our family; the majority have been born and bred at the circus. Our lions are 20th generation circus animals.

‘‘Our enclosures are larger than some zoo enclosures. Our lions’ exercise yard is up to five times larger than what is set down by the government. Our animals live a very good life.’’

Mr St James extended an open invitation to any animal rights protesters to come and see the show, inspect the animal enclosures and ask any questions of the trainers.

‘‘We invite any animal rights group at any time to come and meet with us and see our enclosures, we have nothing to hide, we are a law-abiding business,’’ he said.

‘‘I think if (Animal Liberation ACT) actually came and saw the animals and their enclosures they would realise a lot of what they say is garbage. Maybe then they could go and target actual animal cruelty – such as the bear bile farms in China – where there is actual abuse going on.’’

Queanbeyan Mayor Tim Overall said there were no motions to ban live animal circus from council lands on the agenda.

Cr Overall said laws relating to the use of exotic animals were a legal matter for State and Territory Governments.