Circus still receiving threats over acts

DURBAN 120613 Georgina Boswell, at Brian Boswell's Circus, Scottsborough Country Club. Picture: Jacques Naude

DURBAN 120613 Georgina Boswell, at Brian Boswell's Circus, Scottsborough Country Club. Picture: Jacques Naude

Published Jun 12, 2013

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Durban - After being publicly vilified for an “isolated incident” involving animal abuse last year, management of Brian Boswell’s Circus says they are being victimised by a malicious group of protesters.

Footage aired by Carte Blanche showing a former handler at the circus whipping an elephant enraged activists who have since staged pickets on several occasions.

Now as the circus heads for the Bluff next week, and central Durban after that, protesters are preparing for another confrontation against the use of wild animal acts and are planning to stage protests daily.

Bluff activists are urging locals to boycott the circus and have written to the hosts, the Dutch Club, asking them to cancel the contract with Brian Boswell’s Circus. The circus – minus the elephants and lions acts because of the weather – is currently in Scottburgh.

Despite publicly declaring that they would consider not using wild animals at shows if circus-goers were against them, the family-owned circus and entertainment company said the threats continued.

“It is very difficult to deal with, because people hide behind their Facebook pages and send me threats, telling me they hope my family dies a slow and miserable death,” said Georgina Boswell, whose father, Brian, started the circus.

“I respect people’s opinions and we do everything to keep our public happy, but honestly I feel like my family business is being persecuted by a minority group of illegal protesters who should be arrested,” she said.

“We have regular surveys and we had said that if our supporters were against us using wild animals, we would consider it. But based on feedback from the surveys, 100 percent of people who come to the show say they enjoy having them there,” Boswell said.

“We have 60 people here. Right now, we don’t have any wild animals in our show because we change it around based on the weather and what we think our people want to see. So the trapeze artists, clowns and our employees face being deprived of their only source of income.”

Battle

Boswell said she felt like she was fighting a losing battle, because the attacks were relentless despite the current exclusion of wild animals.

“I am not even sure if it’s still about the animals at all. We have a great family show with only farm animals like pigs, horses, goats and a Mongolian Cossack. We always invite the public to come in and look around,” she said.

 

The circus has been in the spotlight since Carte Blanche aired amateur video footage in April showing its elephants being abused by handlers in two separate incidents.

The Daily News reported on the outcry in May.

The national council of the SPCA (NSPCA), which was also sent the footage taken in December, has laid five criminal charges against the circus.

Circus management fired one handler in December after receiving complaints from patrons, and suspended another after the Carte Blanche footage.

Support for the “Boycott Brian Boswell’s Animal Circus” Facebook page appears to have increased since the airing of the footage, and the NSPCA’s petition to the Department of Environmental Affairs to ban wild animal acts in circuses has so far drawn more than 7 000 signatures.

Boswell said there had been four protests staged while they were touring. At one protest, she claimed protesters intimidated patrons with pictures, off the internet, of blood-soaked animals.

Calls to bombard the venue hosts with e-mails, SMSes and phone calls amounted to harassment, she said.

Bluff crime-fighter, Rake Jeeves, said yesterday he learnt only recently of the circus coming to the area. “I have tried speaking to the Dutch Club to cancel the booking, but they have said it is difficult to do so as they are under a contract. We’re now trying, through social media, to get residents not to support the circus.”

Bluff animal activist, Louise Bennet, said: “If there are human acts alone, that is okay, but we don’t agree to the use of animals. We are trying to spread the word via e-mail.”

The circus is expected to be in Durban from June 25, and local animal rights activist and amateur documentary maker, Michael Almendro, are co-ordinating daily protests.

“When the circus officially says they are no longer using wild animal acts, then our protests will stop,” he said yesterday.

Almendro is defending a R1 million defamation suit brought against him by Brian Boswell’s Circus over an 11-minute video feature, posted on YouTube, that alleges animal abuse at the circus.

Boswell said that the campaign by protesters overshadowed the good work that the circus did. “We enjoy reaching out to people from places where they would never get to see a circus,” she said. “We are also a member of the Magaliesburg Lions Club and we are accountable to them.”

A director of the club, who requested her name be withheld because she was receiving hate mail, praised the circus.

‘I think the work that they do while on the road is phenomenal. We don’t just get anyone to be a member. You need to be upstanding and demonstrate that you are passionate about what you do,” she said.

“They entertain thousands of elderly people and young children.”

Jackie Debble, supervisor of the Scottburgh Country Club where the circus is currently based, said he was “perfectly happy” with them being there.

“There are no wild animals in sight, so I don’t understand what the hassle is about.”

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