UK to Ban Animal Circuses After Cruelty Exposed

Photo: downing.amanda / cc

The truth, it seems, has the power to set the most inhumanely treated animals free from their abusers. Last week, troubling undercover footage of a circus elephant named Anne being bound and brutally beaten by her keepers sent shock waves through the UK, where such animals are paraded before an audience as 'entertainment'. In response to the public outcry, the UK Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, has announced plans to ban the use of wild animals in circuses -- returning some semblance of dignity to a host of exotic animals that currently share a billing with acrobats and clowns.Using exotic animals as props for human entertainment, of course, dates back thousands of years, from royal courts to ancient coliseums -- but rethinking such practices in the modern era has taken quite a bit longer than did gladiator battles to the death, for example. And, while the exploitative practices onstage have been enough to ruffle more than a few feathers among the most empathetic-enlightened, the recently revealed behind-the-scenes treatment of circus animals seems to have awoken the better sensibilities in the masses.

Last week, undercover footage exposed to public the brutal treatment of Anne, a 59-year old Asian elephant owned by a UK traveling circus, inflicted by its trainer -- and, presumably, this filmed abuse reflects the generally inhumane treatment experienced by circus animals on a regular basis.

Faced with the indisputable horrors related to animal circuses in the UK, the nation's Environmental Minister has been spurred to enact a ban that animal-rights groups have been requesting for decades.

"It's about time that in Britain we showed we really are a nation of animal lovers," said Ros Clubb, a senior scientist from the UK's RSPCA.

According to a report from The Express, the public outcry about those troubling realities behind the circuses has been heard by top officials -- and like Anne the elephant, who has already been relocated, dozens of other animals will likely be rescued from their tortured lives as well.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has been persuaded that forcing elephants, tigers, lions, camels and other exotic creatures to perform tricks for audiences is wrong in modern Britain.

She is also said to believe that making them travel thousands of miles every year in cramped lorry trailers known as "beast ­wagons" is harmful to their welfare.

While Animal Welfare Minister Jim Paice told MPs last month that a new policy was "close to completion", his boss Ms Spelman is now "minded" to introduce the ban, say senior sources.

When the ban is ultimately enacted, the UK will join a growing number nations around the world which have already sought to place the basic well-being of animals above the interests of profiteers.

Undoubtedly, the animals soon-to-be liberated from traveling circuses in the UK are worthy of our marveling, just as they have been the source of fascination for countless generations. But, I suspect, what makes creatures like Anne the elephant so appealing to us is the fact that they are supposedly more closely tied to a more wild version of our planet we long-ago ceded from -- not tied by ropes to be beaten by the most callous among us.

After all, they aren't merely animals in our world; rather, we are merely animals in theirs.

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More on Circus Animals
China Bans Animal Circuses; How About the Rest of the World
Lions Freed From Circuses Bound For a Better Life
Escaped Circus Bear Shot by Police

Tags: Animals | United Kingdom

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