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Arts Council funding of animal circuses in Ireland has undergone a seismic shift following a joint campaign by Animal Defenders International (ADI) and Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN). Since the launch of their now decade-long ‘Stop Circus Suffering’ campaign in Ireland, grants awarded to animal circuses have fallen dramatically, and by nearly ninety per cent since 2008.

ADI President, Jan Creamer said “Animal circuses no longer attract the crowds they once did as audiences are aware of the cost to the animals in pain and suffering, for just a few minutes of a show. We are pleased The Arts Council is reflecting public opinion by moving away from funding animal circuses and urge them to finally end funding of performing animal shows.” 

“There’s a world of hidden animal suffering inside of animal-act circuses so it’s no wonder that funding to these places has hit rock bottom,” says ARAN’s John Carmody. “The Arts Council of Ireland should finish the job entirely by completely ending any further financial support for circuses that use animals and to instead pump that cash into modern day circuses free of animals and the chains and cages that hold them.”

The Arts Council awards grants to animal circuses through its Annual Programming Grant and Annual Funding. According the Council’s website, the highest level of funding for animal circuses was €186,500 in 2008, for three animal circuses, compared with just €20,000 for one animal circus this year. The total level of funding granted to animal circuses during this period has exceeded £0.75 million.

Over the past decade, following the launch of their ‘Stop Circus Suffering’ campaign in Ireland, ADI and ARAN have been urging The Arts Council to end its funding of animal circuses and instead support talented human artists who, unlike the animals, have a choice whether to perform. Just one animal circus, Duffy’s, continues to receive financial support. ADI and ARAN are calling on the publicly funded Council to withdraw its funding once and for all.

Duffy’s has yet to announce what animal acts will feature in its 2016 show but the circus has faced criticism of its wild animal performances in the past. A 2005 report by ADI and ARAN revealed that six tigers were kept in an enclosure measuring just 3.7 metres by 7.3 metres. In Britain, where a temporary inspection regime is in place, big cat owner Thomas Chipperfield has had difficulties getting a licence to perform in England after a government inspector found the animals’ accommodation to be “just over half of guidance level” and stated that access to enrichment and exercise “falls well short”.

Fresh welfare concerns were sparked when the big cats were replaced at Duffy’s by a sea lion act. In the wild, these intelligent and social animals regularly dive hundreds of metres underwater to hunt but this fundamental, natural behaviour is denied them in the circus.

The fall in Arts Council funding reflects the declining popularity of animal circuses across Ireland, the UK and around the world. Acting on changing attitudes, over 30 countries and hundreds of local authorities have prohibitions on animal circus acts in place, with bans also secured in many local authorities in Ireland.

Unlike England and Wales, which have committed to ban wild animals in circuses, the Irish Government is considering a system of regulation, with Northern Ireland. The British system is failing and evidence shows that such measures do not safeguard welfare or protect animals from abuse and ADI and ARAN continue to call for an all-Ireland ban.

Legislation prohibiting wild animal acts is supported by the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), which has urged “all European and national competent authorities to prohibit the use of wild mammals in travelling circuses across Europe since there is by no means the possibility that their physiological, mental and social requirements can adequately be met.” The FVE state there “is little or no educational, conservational, research or economic benefit derived from the use of wild mammals in travelling circuses that might justify their use.”

Video: Stop Circus Suffering Ireland

Grants awarded by The Arts Council to animal circuses:

Stop Circus Suffering
ADI studies have found that animals used for entertainment are deprived of all the normal, social and mental stimulation that they would enjoy in the wild. Any discipline or abuse tends to occur behind the scenes while the animals are being trained, making it almost impossible to ensure that a performing animal has not suffered during a lifetime of training.

National restrictions on animal performances in travelling circuses, either wild, all animals, have been enacted in 31 countries – Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, India, Israel, Malta, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Slovenia, Sweden, Taiwan, The Netherlands. Similar laws are under discussion in the UK, USA, Brazil and Chile.

Animal Defenders International
With offices in London, Los Angeles and Bogota, ADI campaigns across the globe on animals in entertainment, providing technical advice to governments, securing progressive animal protection legislation, drafting regulations and rescuing animals in distress. ADI has a worldwide reputation for providing video and photographic evidence exposing the behind-the-scenes suffering in industry and supporting this evidence with scientific research on captive wildlife and transport. ADI rescues animals all over the world, and educates the public on animals and environmental issues.

ARAN is Ireland’s national animal rights group, which campaigns peacefully against all forms of animal abuse, and works to promote a cruelty-free lifestyle.

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