Calls for protest action as circus comes to Amanzimtoti

MANY Amanzimtoti residents are in an uproar over the announcement that the circus, which includes the use of wild animals for entertainment, will be in town this July.

A protest is scheduled to take place on Saturday, 14 July at the Hutchison Park grounds from 1pm until 3pm.

The announcement of the circus’ impending arrival sparked an array of emotions among locals on social media. Many were horrified at the thought of animals being used for human entertainment and profit. Within days of the circus’ posters being displayed on poles around Toti, members of the community took to social media to plan and advise of their intention to apply for a permit to protest outside the gates of the event.

“I loved the circus as a child. I then grew up, obtained an education, did some research and I now protest against circuses which use animals for human entertainment and profit,” said Amanzimtoti’s Shaun Callaghan, who feels strongly about the negative impact of circuses.

“Last time around we made a number of people feel very uncomfortable, and a few turned around at the gate. This year it will be even bigger.”

A string of comments and posts tagged #notinmytown are growing within the Facebook community, raising awareness against the circus.

“God will judge us on the way we treat his earth, not by the number of prayers and church services we attend,” he said.

Callaghan pleaded for the Amanzimtoti community to show its compassion for animals by boycotting the circus or attending the peaceful protest.

Offered the opportunity to comment, circus owner David McLaren provided a counter-argument to the accusations which are widely cast around about circuses which use wild animals.

“We have four lions and four tigers. They were born in captivity and do not come from the wild. They were destined for a life in captivity,” he said. “We use wild animals for entertainment and profit in the same way as zoos, animals parks, marine worlds, horse racing, bird shows, birds in cages, dog shows, animals used in films and show horses. Circuses are not the only businesses that rely on animal use.”

He also took exception to the misconception that all circus animals are abused.

“We train our animals by means of positive re-enforcement. They are safely housed at our circus and show no signs of stress as they are conditioned to the circus life,” he said. McLaren further explained that his circus is monitored closely by SPCA offices across South Africa. “We also work closely with veterinarians to ensure the animals are happy and healthy all the time,” he said. The SPCA also monitors the backstage, behind the scenes treatment of the animals while shows are ongoing.

McLaren questioned whether those who are horrified at the use of animals in circuses are equally horrified that animals are slaughtered and sold at butcheries and supermarkets, that there is ‘wild animal biltong’ for sale, that marine parks keep wild animals in captivity and profit off their shows.

“We operate a legal event and people have the right to choose if they want to support the circus or not. If you don’t like a circus with animals, then don’t support it. We never force the public to attend our shows,” he said.

Many of those who stand strongly against the circus took to Facebook to proudly share how they have removed the McLaren Circus posters from light poles around the town. Ward 97 councillor Andre Beetge warned of the consequences and repercussions which can follow this damage to private property.

“It would be a criminal act of malicious damage to property and those responsible could be charged to appear in court and face the legal consequences,” he said.

“Irrespective of our individual feelings on the matter, we have to remain guided by the law. If the circus conforms to the regulations, is in possession of necessary permits and has passed inspections by the appointed authorities, it is on the right side of the law. Any action, damage or loss (whether direct or indirect) would be deemed as being unlawful action against it and those responsible can be charged criminally as well as sued civilly in their individual capacity.”

McLaren said he hopes the protest is peaceful, as judging by some of the Facebook posts he has seen, “the animal activists believe they can take the law into their own hands”.

 

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  AUTHOR
Holly Konig
Journalist

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