20/10/2009 Clowns fro the Brian Boswell Circus, Quasi and Carlo brush Wankie and Tembe in Lynwood. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Cape Town - The national SPCA has laid criminal charges against Brian Boswell Circus after receiving video footage flighted on national television of one of the circus’s elephants allegedly being “terrified and beaten”.

The animal welfare organisation, which said in a statement: “This cruelty is shameful!”, re-emphasised its 2011 “Celebrate the Wildness of Wild Animals” campaign and repeated its call on the government to ban wild animals from circuses. It also called on people to boycott circuses that used wild animals.

“Animals in circuses do not benefit any educational, conservational or scientific cause,” it said.

Noting that the elephant beating had been seen in footage on MNet’s Carte Blanche, the NSPCA said it had taken immediate action and that criminal charges had been laid against the handler and the circus.

“This matter will follow the legal process… It is due to these legal processes that the elephants in question remain in the custody of the Brian Boswell circus.”

It said more than 30 countries, including Austria, Greece, Bolivia, Peru, Australia, Israel and Singapore, had already banned the use of wild animals in circuses.

“The NSPCA calls on all animal lovers to stand together with them in sending a powerful message to government that South Africans abhor cruelty and that the use of wild animals in circuses must finally be outlawed in this country… Performing inappropriate tricks in the name of entertainment also does nothing to foster respect for animals.”

Brian Boswell’s Circus had not responded to an e-mailed request for comment by the Cape Argus at the time of going to press.

On its website, it said “animals are an integral part of the circus and are treated as part of the family” and that the Boswells had been working with animals for many generations.

“Their wellbeing is of utmost importance… We do not condone the ill-treatment or abuse of any animals.”

* Boswell Wilkie Circus has posted a notice on its website saying it is run by the Wilkie Family and has no connection whatsoever with Brian Boswell’s Circus or with any other circus in the country at present.

“Due to public demand and our own decision, we stopped touring with wild animals in our circus almost 16 years ago.”

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Cape Argus