Katya is a 36-year-old bear who was a longtime star of the Big St. Petersburg State Circus on Fontanka where she entertained thousands riding a motorcycle around a ring. In 1980, she performed in the Olympics in Russia, at the opening ceremony for a soccer match; she was also in two movies in the 1980s. But as MSNBC reports, since she retired in 2009, she’s been kept in a rusty brown cage inside a bus, along with dozens of other retired circus animals. MSNBC describes the horrific conditions in which Katya and many other retired circus animals live:
“They can’t move normally and start going crazy,” Zoya Afanasyeva of the Vita animal rights group said as she stood by Katya’s sweltering bus on a hot summer day.
“Apparently they are being taken care of, but not more often than once a day, and this care is perfunctory because the smell here in the parking lot is unbearable,” Afanasyeva said.
Klava the bear shares a small cage with Pasha the boar.
Birds with atrophied muscles live next to cats that don’t meow and stare straight ahead with pus-covered eyes.
While some of the animals are taken to downtown St. Petersburg to be photographed with children and tourists, others are never washed or examined by veterinarians. Circus director Viktor Savrasov says the animals are “cared for” and that Katya’s trainer, Natalya Arkhipova, could have instead put her to sleep. Arkhipova reportedly still feeds Katya.
The VITA animal rights group has an English version of its webpage; regarding “atrocious entertainments,” Vita says:
Several attempts have been made to organize bullfights in Russia. VITA has taken an active part in the successful international campaign against these plans. We also carry action for better life conditions for the animals in the zoos and circuses, and their further abolition. From 2009 VITA is a member of the BornFree – Born Free Foundation.
There are videos on YouTube of bears performing the sorts of tricks that Katya once did in the circus in Russia but I find them painful to watch. If anyone needs evidence that we can do without animal acts in circuses, looking at Katya in her cage should be more than enough.
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