THE use of exotic animals in circuses may be coming to an end, with Stardust Circus no longer breeding lions and monkeys.
On the second last day of its 11-show run in Kelso, a group of a dozen Animal Justice Party (AJP) members staged a protest outside the event on Gilmour Street to highlight the suffering of animals in circuses.
NSW MLC Mark Pearson, who is an AJC member, was at the protest and said the group’s main concern was the use of exotic animals such as primates, lions and elephants in circuses.
“Circuses turn them into neurotic, disturbed animals and that’s what our children are witnessing,” he said.
“They are forced to do very abnormal tricks and they become a parody of themselves. The circus is just not the suitable place for animals like this in terms of their psychological and physical needs.”
Stardust ringmaster Adam St James said the animals’ mental and physical needs were not suffering and said the only time an animal paces in its cage was just before it was fed.
He said AJP’s claims were “ridiculous” and “sensational” and said animal welfare was at the front of his mind.
“They’re not wild animals, they’re animals that have been bred in captivity,” he said.
Despite this, as one of only two travelling circuses that still feature exotic animals, Mr St James said times were changing.
“It has been tossed around in our family that we won’t breed and we can see where the future is going,” he said.
“The day will come when perhaps we can’t have exotic animals.”
Mr St James said the circus had stopped breeding lions and monkeys, but would continue to use existing ones along with ponies, dogs, pigs and goats in its shows.
“We will always have animals in our circus, whether it’s exotic or domestic,” he said.
Mr St James said he had concerns about AJP’s overall aims for animal welfare in areas outside circuses.
He claims the group wants to cease human to animal contact, including dog and horse shows, horse competitions, fishing and even the use of Guide Dogs.
Meanwhile, Mr Pearson has introduced the Exhibited Animals Protection Bill to parliament to end the use of animals in circuses within three years.
“I’m bringing in a bill in order to phase out and ban the use of, particularly wild animals, in entertainment and especially circuses,” he said.