More than 100 protesters and animal rights activists have vowed to approach Parliament and the courts to force an outright ban on the use of animals by circuses.
They took to the streets on Sunday, protesting outside the Brian Boswell’s Circus in Centurion, where audiences were flocking to see the last day of the show to be held in the city.
The protests were sparked by a documentary on television programme Carte Blanche, which showed two groomers working for the circus abusing two elephants named Wanky and Themba.
The two elephants, which were at the circus on Sunday, were shown to be abused by the groomers, who have both been fired from the circus.
Activists for Animals Africa spokeswoman, Miranda Jordan, said they would fight hard to ensure that the Animals Protection Act is changed so that it bans the use of animals in circuses.
Jordan said most of the audiences would not buy tickets to the circus if they knew how these animals were treated away from the stage. “We are prepared to fight through the courts and Parliament to ensure that circuses are banned from using all wild animals.
“The kind of methods that are used by these people to train the animals are really shocking and amount to abuse.
“Because the circus travels around, these animals are usually transported for many hours in trucks, which is also not good for them,” said Jordan.
“These two elephants that are here live only by themselves and are boxed in for long periods of time. All over the world there’s a move to ban the use of animals in circuses, and South Africa should not be an exception,” she said.
She said the group had written to Parliament about changing the Animal Protection Act and had acquired the services of an attorney to exploit possible court action.
Boswell denied all the allegations of animal abuse levelled against him and his staff, saying the two groomers were fired once information about their conduct surfaced.
If found guilty of animal cruelty and abuse, Boswell could lose his animals and licence to own any wild animals.
He lashed out at the protesters on Sunday, saying animals had been used at circuses for more that 256 years. “This is an illegal protest, they have not been granted permission by the police to protest. But on the issues they are raising, it is not true that we abuse animals.
“We take good care of the animals and we can prove this. We have been inspected more than 17 times by the SPCA in 2013 and they found that everything is fine.
“All the animals that are here are well taken care of. We also give them enough space to roam around, which is why I don’t understand why we are being accused of abusing animals.
“Everybody has a right to have their opinions about anything but I also have right to earn a living as long as it not an illegal activity. Their accusations are not true.”
Boswell, who has been running his circus for more than 32 years, said he spent a lot of money to ensure all the animals were healthy and taken care of. “It is very expensive to maintain the animals and to keep them healthy,” he said.
Most of the people attending Sunday’s show were hardly bothered by the protests, and insisted they would continue attending the shows.
“Why are they only protesting about these things now, the circus has been using animals for many years, why have they not been protesting and asking for the ban all along,” said Amanda Mbele. “I am not a big fan of the circus but I don’t see anything wrong with it. It is great entertainment for the children so we bring them here whenever the circus is on.”
Maggie de Lange, who brought her grandson to the show, said Boswell’s circus would have long been shut down if he was guilty of any animal abuse. “I am sure there are people who inspect these things and they would have found him guilty if he was doing anything wrong. This is just entertainment for the children.
“I don’t see why they are only protesting now when the circus is such and old thing and they have always used animals to entertain the audience,” said De Lange.
Basie Botha said he could understand both sides of the argument, but was more worried about safety.
“I am accompanying my girlfriend, I am not a circus fan. But I can understand where the protesters are coming from.
“These guys (circus organisers) are running a huge risk for lawsuits, what happens if one of the animals escapes and runs into the mall.
“I am not sure about the abuse of the animals because I have never seen them do it.
“If they do beat them I do not think they beat them badly because we would be able to see that they were abused,” said Botha. - Pretoria News