ANIMAL activists have condemned circus owners for allegedly keeping five big cats caged inside a “beast wagon”.
They claimed the tigers and lions were being kept in cramped and freezing conditions in North-east Scotland, which they said were “heartbreaking” to see and amounted to a “national disgrace”.
However, yesterday Aberdeenshire Council said inspections of the site had found everything in order. A spokesman said health, welfare and security arrangements in place were satisfactory.
Animal Defenders International (ADI) shot a video of the big cats in their Scottish winter home – a trailer parked in a windswept field in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire.
The footage shows one of the tigers repeatedly pacing around its cage.
Campaigners say this behaviour is not normal for animals in the wild and indicates they are in distress.
“Even when the circus season ends, these animals are still on show and enduring conditions which deny them their most basic behaviours,” said ADI president Jan Creamer.
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
“It is heartbreaking to see these majestic animals reduced to this existence.
“It is a national disgrace – it is time for Britain to act and ban wild animals in circuses.”
The big cats were being subjected to “a life of imprisonment and a denial of their natural instincts”, according to Animal Concern Advice Line.
Charity secretary John Robins said: “When I heard what was happening, I thought we had stepped back hundreds of years to the dark ages. Our politicians should have made this illegal a decade ago. They should do so now, and liberate these animals from a life of imprisonment.”
Big cats in a circus are typically in front of crowds for set periods – while performing and during “zoo time”. ADI claims the Fraserburgh animals face a stream of visitors all day, with handlers accepting donations from those who come to see them.
The big cats are the first wild circus animals to be seen north of the Border for several years, and are the last remaining big cat act in the UK.
They belong to Thomas Chipperfield and have spent the summer touring with Peter Jolly’s Circus, one of only two circuses licensed to perform in England with wild animals.
Anthony Beckwith, who works for the circus, said it was renting the field until February.
He added: “The beast wagon makes up only a small part of their enclosure – their indoor space, their night den. It’s adjacent to a large outdoor enclosure which has a pool to bathe in, toys, ropes, balls, platforms.
“Exercise and enrichment is a key part of their welfare.”
The big cats’ arrival has prompted Aberdeen MSP Kevin Stewart to table a motion calling for Scotland to ban such acts.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are aware of this situation, and are in contact with Aberdeenshire Council.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS