Animal Defenders International has called for a ban on the use of wild animals in UK circuses after the organization released a shocking video of a 57 year-old arthritic circus elephant being hit 48 times by her caretaker.
Anne (Annie), an elderly Asian elephant, was videotaped over a 3 ½ week period in the barn at the winter quarters of the Bobby Roberts Super Circus.
The video showed her shackled by heavy chains and being repeatedly beaten by her groomer with a metal pitchfork and kicked in the face and body.
Jan Creamer, Chief Executive of ADI said: “ADI has been concerned for Annie’s welfare for many years and have followed her tragic plight. Poor Annie has been with the circus for over 50 years since she was baby, having been caught in the wild and torn from her family. Elephants are social and extremely intelligent so this has been a living hell for her. At last we have managed to expose this circus operation for the cruel farce that it is and never again can Roberts preach about animal welfare and how well his animals are cared for.”
The organization has campaigned many times for Annie’s release and has offered to re-home her at a wildlife sanctuary.
The Daily Mail said, “Annie is the oldest surviving elephant in Europe and is wheeled out in a headdress to pose for photographs with audience members up to twice a day.”
Circus Owners’ Side
Circus owners Bobby and Moira Roberts said they were “shocked and horrified” by the film. They said they consider Annie to be “part of the family and to separate her from the circus would cause her to pine away and die.”
They told officials they would have pressed charges against their employee and turned him over to the police if they had been shown the tape earlier. The caretaker has reportedly slipped away and gone back home to Eastern Europe.
Creamer was not surprised at the Roberts’ response. She even predicted what they would say in a story on the ADI website.
“I have no doubt that it will be claimed that this is an ‘exception’ and/or that the owner was not aware of the abuse, but the evidence is now conclusive. Each time we expose the cruelty, the circuses give a similar range of excuses,” said Creamer.
Creamer and ADI have campaigned for years for a ban on wild animals used in UK circuses.
They demonstrated that 94.5 percent of the public want a ban and more than 170 Members of Parliament (MPs) have signed Early Day Motion 403 calling for a ban, but up until now the UK government has opted for circuses to regulate themselves against animal abuse.
Creamer said, “To Lord Henley, the Minister responsible, we say enough is enough. It is now time for him to act decisively to stop this appalling suffering. It is time for him to enact a total ban once and for all.”
Tim Phillips, ADI’s Campaigns Director said, “The release of this footage stops any attempt by UK government to ignore the will of the public. It is clear that self-regulation is not an option in this industry.”
“Once again, we have exposed that cruelty and deprivation is rife within the circus industry. We have also established that self regulation is not a viable option as the government would be asking circuses like Bobby Roberts or the Great British Circus to regulate themselves. That would be a farce, and the animals will continue to suffer abuse.”
Time may be running out for Annie. The life expectancy for an elephant is approximately 70 years and animal rights advocates say that Annie’s severe arthritis in her back leg is taking a toll on her body.
Police and the RSPCA have launched an investigation into the case and ADI plans to seek private legal action. The group also wants the name of the employee who committed the abuse.
ADI successfully worked in Bolivia for a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses. Earlier this year they rescued and re-homed 25 lions that had been part of circuses in that country.
Warning this video contains graphic footage.
Write Your MP
ADI is asking all of its British supporters to contact their MP and ask them to sign EDM 403 Wild Animals in Circuses.
Write Lord Henley
The group is also asking all supporters to write (not e-mail) Lord Henley, who will be making the decision and ask him for a “complete ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.”
Write to: The House of Lords, London, SWA1A 0WP, UK.
Photo from Animal Defenders International