In Circuses: A Modern-Day Slave Trade by Benjamin Zephaniah
regulations have failed animals such as Anne, the elephant kicked and beaten
in a UK circus. We need a ban now
heritage and African roots make it impossible for me to ignore the historical
similarities between cruelty to my own ancestors and cruelty
to animals in circuses today. The mindset that has permitted atrocities
to be inflicted on humans is the same mindset that allows the abuse of animals
to occur. Just as my ancestors were beaten and exploited, so are the zebras,
lions, tigers, camels and other animals used in circuses. Just as my ancestors
had families, feelings and emotions, so do animals. In fact, when I strip
away the material stuff around me, I see that I, too, am an animal. We are
as if they were equipment, animals who are forced to travel and perform
in circuses are routinely deprived of proper care and become sick, listless
and depressed. Many develop neurotic behaviour from the stress and abuse
and die far short of their expected lifespan. They spend the vast majority
of their lives crammed into transport cages or boxcars and are hauled around
from one venue to the next. UK laws require that animals be given a good
quality of life. But the rigours of transport, cruel training techniques
and other stresses of circus life make that impossible.
of my ancestors were imprisoned without cause and spent their lives deprived
of everything that was important and meaningful to them: the freedom of
choice, independence and autonomy. This is exactly what life is like for
animals used in circuses. They have no choice when it comes to their living
conditions or what creatures they live and interact with, and they are punished
when they don't toe the line. They have no control over any aspect of their
don't "get used to" servitude. They know they aren't where they
are supposed to be. Animals who perform stunts that they would never do
in their rightful homes do so out of fear, not because they want to.
year, people around the world were justifiably outraged when video footage
of Anne, the last elephant used in a UK circus, was circulated showing a
handler as he kicked, beat and stabbed her with a pitchfork – even
though she was chained. Anne was finally allowed to retire in the wake of
a public outcry. But unless a ban on the use of animals in circuses is imposed,
there's nothing to stop a British circus from acquiring another elephant
and putting him or her through a life of torment. Elephants have adapted
to near-constant movement in the wild, and they walk vast distances every
day in order to maintain their health and wellbeing. In circuses, the only
"exercise" elephants get is when they perform silly tricks. They
need the company and companionship of other elephants in order to thrive.
They are members of an intelligent and multifaceted species who, like us,
experience a wide range of emotions.
per cent of people who responded to the last government's circus consultation
support the ban on wild animals in circuses, knowing that it is not
acceptable to subject animals to cruel treatment for our entertainment.
Greece recently announced a ban on all animal circuses, and a legal challenge
to overturn the Austrian government's ban on wild animals in circuses failed.
Bolivia, Finland, India, Singapore and Sweden have all implemented bans
on or prohibited animal acts. Around the world, people are speaking out
against the shameful cruelty of confining animals to cramped cages, hauling
them around in lorries and forcing them to perform unnatural, demeaning
and sometimes painful acts. But in the UK, once at the forefront of animal
protection, the government is still ignoring the will of both the public
and MPs by wasting time talking about a system of "licensing"
or "regulating" wild-animal acts. It's not enough.
the first time since I was a little child, I went to a circus myself earlier
this year. The reason I went was because it said clearly that it does not
use animals. I had an absolutely great time admiring what human beings can
do when they stop exploiting others and use their own free will and creativity.
I spoke to many of the performers after the show, and they told me that
they would not work with animals. It was inspiring, and I told them that
they are great examples of what is possible.
UK regulations have already failed animals in circuses miserably. Anne,
for example, spent almost six decades with the Bobby Roberts Super Circus.
The welfare problems and abuse that animals in circuses experience are inherent,
and it is clear that we can't allow circuses to regulate themselves. Only
a complete ban will ensure that animals in circuses are spared further suffering.
been 200 years since parliament banned the slave trade. It's about time
for that enlightened attitude to be extended to animal slaves exploited