Activist Catherine Constantinides outside the McLaren Circus in Glenanda earlier
this week after an outcry about the use of animals.
Activist Catherine Constantinides outside the McLaren Circus in Glenanda earlier this week after an outcry about the use of animals.

Calls for local circus to stop using wild animals

By SAMEER NAIK Time of article published Dec 17, 2019

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Joburg animal rights organisations and citizens want a local circus to stop using wild animals or else they will force it to close down.

McLaren Circus has returned to Joburg, but this week faced a severe backlash with people protesting on the grounds in Glenanda.

Taking part in this protest were several animal rights organisations including Beauty Without Cruelty and Ban Animal Trading (BAT).

There is also a petition calling for the end of McLaren Circus that is gaining traction on social media.

The McLaren Circus, run by owner David McLaren, has been operating for almost 15 years, and its shows include performances by lions, tigers, camels, horses, snakes, and alligators.

Animals rights organisation Beauty Without Cruelty say it has spent years trying to stop the circus from using wild animals .

“Animals are not playthings and should be living their lives as they deem fit,” said a spokesperson.

“Circus animals spend months travelling in small, bare cages. The stress of continued confinement, as well as the transportation, result in long term suffering and a lack of appropriate social interaction, and the restricted freedom to perform natural behaviours represent stresses for captive animals.”

The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) has also slammed the circus for its continued use of wild animals.

“The NSPCA is opposed to the keeping of wild animals in captivity for reasons other than bona fide conservation or for rehabilitation purposes or in providing sanctuary to displaced animals. Wild animals should remain and roam freely in their natural habitats,” said Brenda Santon, spokesperson.

“Restrictions on performing natural behaviour together with forced movement, human handling, noise, weather conditions, the lack of social interaction, trailer movement and confinement all constitute sources of stress to these captive wild animals.

“Stress can have short-term as well as long-term behavioural and psychological effects.”


These organisations’ actions come as circuses around the world face criticism for using animals in their acts.

McLaren Circus believes, however, that the criticism by various animal rights organisations in the country is unfair, and that their animals are well looked after.

“Are these allegations met with any evidence to support their claims, or is it merely them speaking their mind?,” asked Karl Hildebrandt, of McLaren Circus.

“This is also very strange because a vast majority of the protesters standing outside McLaren Circus, picketing; volunteer at zoos, they ride horses, still eat meat, or rely on medicines that were tested on animals.”

Hildebrandt added that the circus had no issue with animal rights activists, however: “We’ve been in the industry for close to 15 years. Over the years we have built an extremely strong bond with all our animals and we understand their personalities and their needs.

“They are part of our animals and we would never do anything to jeopardise their welfare and safety.”

Asked whether the animals were well kept and maintained, Hildebrandt said: “This is actually a ridiculous question. We love our animals. They are so important to us and we would never do anything to jeopardise their well-being!”

“It is not simply a job to “well kept and well maintained animals” - it is dedication and a passion.”

He explained that the animals were regularly monitored by various SPCA inspectors.

Social justice activist Catherine Constantinides visited McLaren Circus on Thursday to chat to the owner as she was concerned by the circus’s use of wild animals.

“I respect David McLaren for meeting with me. We spent one and a half hours together. I asked to see the animals,” said Constantinides.

“They are healthy, well looked after animals, but that does not mean they belong in a circus.”

“We agreed to disagree fundamentally on the fact that I don’t believe that animals belong in a circus and I believe it is wrong in this day and age for us to still continue to move forward promoting these kinds of entertainment spaces within our communities.”

Ban Animal Trading (BAT) has accused the circus of using a captive lion breeding farm, implicated in canned hunting, as a holding facility for their animals.

“McLaren does have a darker side. They are using a captive lion breeding farm, implicated in canned hunting, as a holding facility and allowing their own lions to breed. So the circus lies. All the time,” said Smaragda Louw, spokesperson.

“Wild animals do not belong in circuses, aquariums, or zoos. These are all institutions of entertainment, and they serve no educational or conservation role.

“The circus enclosures and steel containers that the animals are transported in, are very small, and if these enclosures had been used in a zoo to house animals, there would have been an outcry.”

“Yet it appears to be acceptable because this is a circus? We fail to understand the double standards.”

McLaren Circus will be moving on from Monday after a week of shows.

The Saturday Star

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