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Tuesday, February 3, 1998 Published at 02:26 GMT


Circus animals 'routinely beaten'
image: [ Circus owners say they care about their animals ]
Circus owners say they care about their animals

Watch this story in Real Video (2'08")
Many circus animals in Britain are abused and mistreated, according to a study carried out by the charity Animal Defenders.

Secret research at well-known circuses across the country found evidence of physical and mental abuse.

[ image: Secret film showed this man beating an elephant]
Secret film showed this man beating an elephant
But circus owners say the report is "scaremongering".

Four hundred hours of video footage over an 18-month period by Animal Defenders Ltd showed elephants, lions and tigers being beaten.

"I have been involved in this kind of work for over 20 years and I have never seen cruelty like this," said Jan Creamer, director of Animal Defenders.

"Elephants were beaten with pitchforks, shovels, elephant hooks and anything else to hand. On one occasion the animal was brought to the ground screaming," she said.

"It is time that the use of animals in circuses was abandoned and performing animal training centres brought under the Zoo Licensing Act."

[ image: Big cats are cooped up in cages]
Big cats are cooped up in cages
Big cats spend about 85% of their time in their cages and some animals show signs of neglect. They develop a distinctive swaying motion when deprived of stimulation.

Increasingly, circuses performing in Britain are dispensing with exotic animals. Cirque du Soleil is one of 10 that does without them. It is currently performing to packed houses in London.

[ image: Cirque du Soleil has only human performers]
Cirque du Soleil has only human performers
Another six have only domestic animals but exotic creatures are widely used throughout the world.

They bring with them a sense of danger, all too real in the case of circus boss Richard Chipperfield who was attacked by a tiger recently, leaving him with serious head injuries.

David Jameson, author of a history of the Chipperfields, Britain's most famous circus family, says circus owners rely on their animals for their livelihoods and do all they can to look after them.

"The general condition of animals in British circuses is extremely good," he said.

"People who look after them, care for them and train them do it because they want to do it. It's not an easy way of making a living. The animals are kept in very good conditions."


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