Britain’s biggest wild animal circus sells its animals

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“Well that explains where Mr Lacey’s tigers are going…from one circus to another…shameful”

Posted: 22 August 2012. Updated: 23 August 2012


The largest wild animal circus in the UK is selling off its animals. Martin Lacey, owner of the Great British Circus told Horse and Hound magazine that he plans to go animal free.

Jan Creamer, President of ADI said: “We have shown incidents of animal cruelty and suffering at the Great British Circus on a number of occasions, so we are pleased that animals will no longer suffer in this circus. We welcome the news that the circus is to go animal free – businesses can continue successfully with just human performers and there are many shows that do that. We can only hope that this provides an incentive for the Government to bring in a ban, while there are so few wild animals in UK circuses. The public and parliament both want it, and it would draw a line under this archaic use of animals once and for all.”

In 2009, ADI secured video footage of the elephants touring with the Great British Circus being viciously abused behind the scenes, by a worker and presenter. ADI also revealed how the circus had presented Parliament with claims that they did not chain elephants, yet continuous video evidence showed elephants chained every day, for up to 11 hours.

A previous investigation of the circus (then known as Circus Harlequin), filmed tigers being beaten and screamed at, a lioness being smashed in the mouth by a tent pole, and a seriously injured lioness being concealed during a welfare inspection.

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  • Read our response to calls for the animals to be purchased here

Mr Lacey’s group of four Friesians, a zebra and two other horses that perform a “little and large” act are advertised for sale in Horse and Hound. Mr Lacey said four other zebras had gone to a private collector along with some camels.

A Great British Circus worker recently informed an ADI investigator that the tigers currently with the circus are to be sold to an Italian Circus, although this has yet to be confirmed

Several other major British circuses once known for wild animal acts have become animal-free shows, including Gerry Cottle’s Circus (currently touring) and Chipperfield’s Circus.

Jan Creamer: “It’s very sad that Mr Lacey has not shown compassion and retired his tigers, who have earned so much money for him, and suffered an arduous, deprived life in the travelling circus. We would certainly help with rehoming as we have done with many circus animals. This just underscores the point that these animals are not family, they are tools and now they are no longer needed, they are being sold on.”

ADI currently has in its care 31 lions rescued from circuses.

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  • Read more about our investigation of the Great British Circus here.

Protest at circus over use of wild animals

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PROTESTERS from a Tonbridge animal welfare group are urging the public to boycott a circus that arrived in town this week.

The Great British Circus – one of the last in the country to include wild animals such as tigers, zebra and camels – arrived at Mabledon Farm near Southborough on Tuesday.

Campaigners from Tonbridge-based Animal Aid have been picketing near the big top in London Road, urging the public to boycott the show.

Animal Aid’s head of education, Mark White, said the animal circus was “outdated”.

He told the Courier: “It’s totally demeaning and depressing watching these proud and majestic animals perform parlour tricks.

“How can they justify using animals like tigers? It’s not entertaining, it’s not educational.

“The way they have to confine the animals is totally unsuitable and then they’re being dragged around the country in wagons. It’s outdated, it belongs in the past.”

In March the Government announced a ban on use of wild animals in circuses could be in place before the next general election in 2015.

The 20-strong group of protestors will be demonstrating until the last show on Sunday, which also includes llamas, reindeer, donkeys and Fresian horses.

Mr White said: “We’ll be there every day to try and persuade people not to go in. We’ve had lots of support from people driving past hooting and waving.

“It was youngsters who came in to our offices to say the circus was in town. They started to get the ball rolling, which was great.”

However, on the opening night the show didn’t go ahead.

Mr White said: “People are just not interested in animal circuses anymore. The fact the show didn’t happen illustrated that.”

Circus owner Martin Lacey said: “When I see them protesting year after a year, it makes us more determined to carry on.

“We will not be bullied by these societies. If for a moment I thought I was doing something wrong or cruel I wouldn’t do it. “Ok then, openly show the public how you train your tigers to do the tricks…show us how you get a tiger to do what you want… how do you overpower him, make it known that you are the boss & will not take any naughty behavior…without whips etc!!  Sadly you can’t, because tigers will not perform of their own free will, which means you have to force them or coerce them with whips…whips are cruel, do don’t do it!”

“We’re inspected regularly and follow the regulations. “Yes, but you also know what date & time the investigators are going to be there…plenty time to tidy your act, so to speak!”

“People are not losing interest, we are in the middle of a recession, all entertainment businesses are down.” “Sorry your wrong mate, people are losing interest because they now know all the dirty tricks of the circus. They know all about the beatings it takes, to make animals do something which is totally un-natural for their species… the public have seen, through undercover investigations, animals being cruelly abused! No animal performs for the fun of it…if they did, they would be caught doing it in the wild…but they are not…they are forced into doing pathetic tricks by bullying tactics & beatings!”

PROTESTERS from a Tonbridge animal welfare group are urging the public to boycott a circus that arrived in town this week.

The Great British Circus – one of the last in the country to include wild animals such as tigers, zebra and camels – arrived at Mabledon Farm near Southborough on Tuesday.

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Circus boss hits back and says his tigers are part of family

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THE director of a circus which has performed in the Tamworth area for over ten years has defended his use of animals in its shows.

Martin Lacey was responding to fierce criticism from an animal protection charity which was calling on residents to boycott the circus which is currently based at Lea Marston near Kingsbury.

The Great British Circus uses camels, llamas, reindeer, Fresian horses, Falabella, zebra, ponies, dogs and donkeys in its performances and is the last remaining circus in the country to also include tigers.

Mr Lacey told the Herald: “We’ve been coming to the Tamworth area for over ten years now and people vote with their feet.

“All I would say to people is that if you have any concerns, put on your jacket and come and see us and make your own minds up. “You can look behind the scenes for just £1 and you’ll see we have nothing to hide.

“I’m on my tenth generation of tigers and my 12th generation of lions now – would they really breed for me if they were not properly cared for?

“Our animals are not ones we’ve dragged kicking and screaming from the wild and made perform for the titillation of the general public – they are my family and twice a day they enjoy organised play in the ring. “I’m not brave or stupid enough to knock tigers around.”

But the Captive Animals’ Protection Society has called on the public not to attend the circus which is performing in the village until June 10.

Liz Tyson, director of CAPS, said: “Constant transportation, confinement and repetitive unnatural performances is no life for any animal and CAPS encourages families to choose one of the fantastic all-human shows to get their circus fix this year.

“Visitor numbers to circuses with wild animals have halved in the last five years and there is a huge amount of support for the new proposals for a ban.

“But the Government needs to act quickly and we ask that people stay away from those shows that continue to use animals in the meantime.

“We sincerely hope that we will soon see a ban on this practice in this country but we remain concerned for all animals in circuses, whether domestic or wild.

“CAPS asks that the public vote with their feet and boycott all animal circuses, ” she added.

But Mr Lacey, a former zoo director and zoological adviser for television, said that scientific studies had proved that animal keeping in circuses was no worse than that found in stables and farms.

And he said of the charity’s accusations: “This is just a potty crusade – a bunch of rhetoric from a group of people who have never kept such animals.

“We are regularly checked by all sorts of government departments and we pass those checks.”

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Circus owner defends use of animals as attraction arrives in Sutton Coldfield

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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

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Ringmaster: animal show is ‘way of life’ | This is Grimsby

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A CIRCUS show featuring tigers, camels and horses is starting in Louth this week.

The long-established Great British Circus started on Tuesday and will run until Sunday, March 4.

Does this look natural to you???

Animal rights campaigners have protested about the circus but ringmaster Barbara Howes has defended the circus’s use of animals in its performances.

“Basically our show is an interpretation of what they naturally do,” she said.

“Tigers jump from tree stumps, roll over and lay down and we teach them to do these things on command. You cannot force an animal to do something – all we hold are two small garden canes as an extension to our arms.

“We are all animal lovers and we like animals to have their own spirit and characters. When we train a new animal it is always starting them off slow – they are never thrown in at the deep end.”

None of the animals are from the wild, with the tigers being the eighth generation bred by Martin Lacey, the company owner and circus director.

via Ringmaster: animal show is ‘way of life’ | This is Grimsby.

As the Great British Circus, apparently now operating under the name Big Top Productions, opens tonight in Louth, reports state that the circus plans to base its 2012 show on the classic children’s story of Black Beauty. The move to use the story as a basis for their show has been criticised by leading animal protection charity, The Captive Animals’ Protection Society, who say it is in bad taste and at odds with the message of the original story.

Said CAPS director, Liz Tyson:

“We were very surprised to see that the circus have chosen this route in what appears to be an attempt to convince audiences that animal welfare needs are met in travelling circuses by using this story as the backdrop for their show. Given that the story aimed to teach respect for animals and to try to highlight some of the major animal welfare concerns of the day, it appears to be in bad taste to use it to portray a practice which so many people agree is exploitative to animals”.

Peaceful protests are planned for some of the circus’ shows and leading welfare groups continue to lobby Government to see a ban on the practice of the use of wild animals in circuses introduced in this country.

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