Animal Welfare

17/04/2009 NEWS: 17/04/2009 NEWS: Stardust Circus in Ballarat. Lion tamer Mathew Izekiel with "Roarie" the lion.

Lion tamer Mathew Izekiel with “Roarie” the lion.

We love our animals. They are part of our family and integral to our identity as a circus. Their safety and comfort is of the utmost importance to us and we are dedicated to their care from birth, throughout their performing years and into retirement.

Our animal enclosures are set up in full view of the public. Every day, many people visit the circus just to see our animals from outside our security fencing. We are occasionally inspected by the RSPCA and have always been found to comply and exceed all regulations. Each of our animals receive the very best in veterinary care and every member of our circus treats them with love and respect.

We understand that people may have questions about our animals and in this section of our website we endeavour to provide answers to these questions.

To peruse the official codes for Australian circuses exhibiting animals, please visit Standards for Exhibiting Circus Animals in NSW.

For further reading on the treatment and training of animals in circuses, please see Dr Marthe Kiley-Worthington’s Animals in Circuses and Zoos: Chiron’s World (London: Bell & Bain, 1995). Kiley-Worhington, an internationally renowned animal behaviour expert, was commissioned by the RSPCA UK  and the UFAW (Universities Federation for Animal Welfare) to make a comparison study between animals in circuses and zoos in the United Kingdom and animals in the wild. Animals in Circuses is the result of her 18-month investigation.

17/04/2009 NEWS: 17/04/2009 NEWS: Stardust Circus in Ballarat. Magic the Pony with Wonona West.

Magic the Pony with Wonona West.

Kiley-Worthington discovered that, so long as an animal’s individual needs are addressed (food, accommodation, activity, etc), circuses do not cause animals to suffer, that they are environments rich with stimulation. The situation for animals in Australian circuses in 2015 is an improvement on what Kiley-Worthington observed in the UK in the late 1980s.

You can also view a documentary on Kiley-Worthington’s work, Nature Watch – Captive Friends, in which she commends the stimulation circus training and performance provides to animals. In Nature Watch, Kiley-Worthington states that she doesn’t “see any argument to support the contention that using animals in performance is much worse than using animals in gymkharnas [equestrian events] or for pets or pulling ploughs or anything else.” (Note that the problems she outlines in Russian circuses – the size of the animals living quarters, performance modalities and training methods – are absolutely not the conditions under which animals live in Australian circuses.)

A second investigation into the welfare of circus animals was commissioned in the UK in 2007 by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. It was the conclusion of this study that there was not “scientific evidence sufficient to demonstrate that travelling circuses are not compatible with meeting the welfare needs of any type of non-domesticated animal…” (see Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses). Although there has been no comparable study for Australian circuses, there is already the legislation and the inspection system in place that the DEFRA report recommended to ensure the welfare of performing animals.