A RINGMASTER who reportedly claimed he would have to shoot his tigers if a ban on circus animals was passed has brought his troupe to the Midlands.

The Great British Circus began a three-week run at Kingsbury, near Sutton Coldfield, on Tuesday.

Now operating under the name Big Top Productions, (” why, why change the name, unless you don’t want to be associated with any past allegations!”) the circus is recreating children’s favourite Black Beauty and Friends. It features horses, tigers, camels and even a llama.

But owner Martin Lacey, who has trained animals for more than 40 years, said the accusations of cruelty were “absolute rubbish”.

 He told The Birmingham Mail: “These animals are worth a lot of money, are we going to be cruel to that investment?

“I’m not big or brave enough to beat up tigers – they would eat me.

“I have to be their best friend. It has to be organised play. That is how you train a dog – with organised play, this is the same.” “Mmmm…I don’t think it’s quite the same as training a dog! Even dogs have to be taught who is boss…so exactly how does he do that with lions?  The same as evey other circus trains their wild animals, with fear & abuse!!!”

Mr Lacey, whose tigers descend from a cat he collected in the 1970s from a back garden in Birmingham, said there had only been seven prosecutions for animal cruelty against circuses in more than 150 years.

“Daily in the courts there are pet owners who have mistreated their animals,” he said.

“In every industry there are some people who behave badly but you don’t close the whole industry”  “Well that would be because not all industry’s are working with endangered animals who have to perform degrading tricks to line your pockets!”

Mr Lacey’s circus has been dogged by criticism in recent years.

Three years ago an undercover investigation by an animal welfare group claimed to show elephants being beaten and jabbed with hooks.

A circus spokeswoman said yesterday that the elephants were hired in by an act and the contract was terminated once Mr Lacey became aware of their mistreatment. “That was rather convenient!”

And he came under fire when, discussing government plans to ban the use of performing animals, he reportedly said: “The Government is forcing me to put a bullet through the heads of my animals. This ban is illegal and a restraint of trade.“If a ban on wild animals came into place in the UK, no animals would have to be shot…what a moron!”

 The Government pledged in March to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses “at the earliest opportunity”.

But Mr Lacey said: “There’s no ban and I doubt there ever will be.

“A Defra report concluded there were no welfare problems and that circus care of animals was not better or worse than other animal keeping systems.”

Animal rights group Captive Animals Protection Society said it opposed the attraction.

Campaigns worker Emily Wise said: “Tigers are forced to jump through hoops – they are an endangered species and they are being carted around the country. Ethically we oppose animals being used for entertainment.”

What do you think of the use of animals in circuses? Email letters@birminghammail. net

Read More http://www.birminghammail.net/news/top-stories/2012/05/26/circus-owner-defends-use-of-animals-as-attraction-arrives-in-sutton-coldfield-97319-31047973/2/#ixzz1wBbws2Ja

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