Is Ireland's Arts Council Financially Supporting Animal Cruelty?

horseAnimal Defenders International

The Arts Council of Ireland has given grants of tens of thousands of Euros each year to the last few circuses that continue to showcase controversial animal performances in Ireland.

And although this year’s financial contribution has been cut – thanks to the work of Animal Defenders International (ADI) and Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN) – the Arts Council is continuing to fund this barbaric practice.

These animal protection organizations are calling for the Arts Council to cease all of its funding for animal circuses.

The Arts Council has given grants to Duffy’s Circus, Circus Gerbola and Fossett’s Circus. For example, Duffy’s Circus has received funding since 2006, which peaked at 75,000 Euros. Its funding was cut from 36,000 Euros in 2013 to 20,000 Euros for 2014.

elephantAnimal Defenders International

However, Duffy’s announced last week that its show will have ‘big animal content this year’ – specifically mentioning a new sea lion act. Sea lions are highly intelligent and social animals who regularly dive hundreds of metres underwater to hunt in the wild, and have exceptional long-term memories. In the circus environment they are unable to exhibit their natural behaviour.

ADI and ARAN have been working to stop circus suffering in Ireland since the launch of the Stop Circus Suffering in Ireland campaign in 2005, when the organizations published findings of their investigation into seven circuses which revealed animals suffering, severe confinement, inadequate diets and physical abuse. ADI and ARAN have engaged with government officials, politicians and local authorities to raise awareness about the suffering of circus animals and have secured many local bans.

tigerAnimal Defenders International

ADI and ARAN have also contacted the Arts Council many times, urging it to cease funding of animal circuses. The organizations have provided evidence to the Arts Council of specific incidents of cruelty, such as that of a solitary elephant at Fossett’s who was chained by a front and a hind leg, so it was barely able to move.

The Arts Council justifies funding animal circuses by referring to a motion that was passed in the European Parliament which states: ’It would be desirable for it to be recognised that the classical circus, including the presentation of animals, forms part of European Culture’. The European Parliament defines classical circus as one which ‘offers a variety of entertaining acts in the ring, often with animals’.

donkeyAnimal Defenders International

In its latest communication to ADI and ARAN, the Arts Council states it ‘…in no way condones or supports the mistreatment of animals’. The Council has a ‘welfare framework’ that states that Five Freedoms ‘are employed to ensure that animals in human care do not endure any unnecessary pain or suffering’. However, many animal protection organizations believe it is not possible to provide all Five Freedoms satisfactorily for animals in circuses, especially the freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour and freedom from fear and distress, as our evidence has shown in many circuses.

“The Arts Council of Ireland needs to support responsible art projects and not animal suffering”, said ARAN’s John Carmody. “The science and the facts are on our side that with the best intentions in the world, a circus with animals is unable to adequately provide for the animals in their care – and to this end ARAN would urge the Council to re-direct funding to circuses without animals.”

ADI chief executive Jan Creamer added: “ADI has exposed brutal beatings and shocking animal cruelty at circuses and we are particularly concerned that the Arts Council’s grant will be used to introduce sea lions, a wild and aquatic animal whose basic needs cannot possibly be met in a travelling circus. We urge the Arts Council to withdraw funding from all entertainment using animals and look forward to welcoming a ban on wild animals in circuses in Ireland in the near future.”

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