Circus helps Limerick animal rights group solve sea lion riddle

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by Alan Jacques

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Duffy's circus sea lion 2014DUFFY’S Circus, currently visiting Limerick for the first time in 18 months, have enlightened a locally based animal rights group over the whereabouts of three sea lions that featured in its shows last year.

The circus rolled into the city this Wednesday for performances at the Groody Roundabout minus sea lions Ziggy, Andrew and Nelson. ARAN founder John Carmody now wants the circus to reveal what happened to these animals.

“After first appearing in the circus last year, the three sea lions were described as part of the Duffy family. What most people don’t know is that circuses tend to hire animals from dealers for yearly shows and once the money comes in, the animals are returned to the dealer for fresher animal-acts to generate new revenue,” Mr Carmody explained.

“The disappearance of the sea lions from Duffy’s Circus this year shows what ARAN has been saying for years-  that these poor animals are nothing more than money spinners,” agrees ARAN’s head of research, Brian Purcell.

“We cannot overly state the importance of people who love animals to avoid attending animal-act circuses as long as they continue using any sort of animal. With the best intentions in the world, a travelling circus is unable to provide for the animals in their care. It’s not only an out-of-date business model, but the animals were never meant for this type of a miserable existence,” he said.

However, Duffy’s Circus manager Mark McFerran insists there is no secret to the whereabouts of Ziggy, Andrew and Nelson.

“The sea lions are currently on tour with another circus in France. They are still with the Munoz family who were here in Ireland with the sea lions. They own, look after and work with them every single day.

“We don’t use animal dealers as is suggested by ARAN, all the animals that appear in our circus travel here and are looked after here by their owners, trainers and care givers; the people the animals have grown up with, those the animals trust to look after them,” said Mr McFerran.

“Ziggy, Andrew and Nelson were booked to appear with Tom Duffy’s Circus for the 2014 season. During the season, it became apparent that they were a big hit with the public, much more so than we have considered.

“We did try to have them back on tour with us again this year, however they were already booked for this year and next but we are making efforts to have them return to our circus in the future,” he explained.

ARAN have also queried whether Limerick will be the last local authority in Ireland to ban animal-act circuses from using public land.

Ten Irish towns and cities have already passed these motions including Cork City and County, Kildare County, South Dublin Council, Waterford, Wicklow, Monaghan, Drogheda and Galway City with Kildare County becoming the most recent. In Northern Ireland, Newtownabbey council has banned animal-act circuses from council-owned land while councillors in the Ards Borough went one step further by voting to ban animal-act circuses from public and private land.

“Once this motion clears a legal hurdle it should become law, making it the first council in all Ireland to completely ban animal-act circuses,” Mr Carmody told the Limerick Post.

Duffy’s Circus is running at the Groody Roundabout in Castletroy until Sunday February 22.