Circus puts spotlight on Limerick animal rights group

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by Alan Jacques

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Horses 2015THE Limerick-based Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN) have been criticised by Duffy’s Circus for making “farcical statements” without any foundation about animals suffering in their care.

After a successful run at the Groody Roundabout last weekend attended by 6,200 people, during their first visit to the city in 18 months, Duffy’s manager Mark McFerran said that ARAN regularly claim that people don’t want to see animals in circuses in Ireland.

“Duffy’s Circus has a history spanning three centuries – it’s telling that last year more people visited our circus than in any other year of our history,” he said.

According to Mr McFerran, Duffy’s animals were inspected a number of times last year, with unannounced inspections from animal welfare officers in Northern Ireland who found all its animals in great condition along with its facilities for them.
“One animal welfare officer went as far as to tell a member of the public she wished all animals she visited were looked after as well as ours. Our sea lions and their pools and transport were also inspected by the Department of Agriculture who also had no issues,” Mr McFerran told the Limerick Post.

David Duffy insists that it is a myth invented by animal rights groups that the circus is secretive about its animals, and that they travel hundreds of miles between venues.

“Our tour is scheduled to avoid long journeys for the animals — the average journey is under 40kms. Standards might be lower in foreign circuses, but those are not the standards we expect in Ireland,” he said.

“We take great pride in our animals and the level of care we provide to them. At most performances, we give our audiences the opportunity to see where our animal family members live, eat and sleep.

“Our animal trainers know each animal individually. They teach them only routines tailored to their natural abilities and individual preferences. Sea lions in particular are highly intelligent and social animals, and ours enjoy nothing more than human interaction with everyone they meet.”

“The long-term well-being and welfare of all our animals is a top priority at Tom Duffy’s. The traditional circus with animals is a recognised art form in Ireland, supported and funded by The Arts Council. Our audience numbers grow year on year, last year almost 175,000 people came to see our performances and meet our animals, and this year we expect even more”, Mr Duffy added.

In response, ARAN founder John Carmody said that travelling circuses are no place for intelligent animals.

“ARAN believes that these animals were never meant for a circus, that it was from the old Victorian times that circuses started using animals and it just so happens to continue on to this day.

“The sea lions that were ‘booked’ with Duffy’s for 2014 were never meant for this or any other circus by nature. The poor animals who are naturally used to diving deep depths in the wild, go hunting for food, socialise with their families and basically doing everything that is natural to them; are obviously not happy to be in a circus instead of the wild. Until these animals can tell us otherwise, then we won’t believe they are happy in a circus. This makes absolutely common sense. A travelling circus is absolutely unable to adequately provide for them,” he said.