Monday, January 18th, 2016
A company which supplies animals for the TV and film industry has been blasted as “cruel and out of date” by animal protection campaigners after footage showing lions, tigers and a polar bear being made to perform “circus-style tricks” was captured at their premises.
Investigators from the Captive Animals’ Protection Society attended an open day in September 2015 at ‘Heythrop Zoological Gardens’, the home of company ‘Amazing Animals’. This company has supplied animals to be used in a range of Hollywood films and BBC TV shows.
Footage captured by the charity shows tigers, lions, leopards and other animals being made to perform trained tricks to visitors. Lions and tigers were filmed behind a cage wall whilst being made to jump from podiums, stand on their hind legs and roar on command.
Says CAPS Campaign Director, Nicola O’Brien:
“The kind of performances we have caught on camera at Amazing Animals could have taken place at any wild animal circus around the world. That this company has been hired by the BBC, Hollywood film producers and major companies is extremely concerning. As a nation we are seeking an end to the use of animals in circuses and training animals to be used in TV shows and films is no different for the animals when you view footage like this.”
Amazing Animals have supplied animals for music videos, films like ‘Prince of Persia’, ‘Clash of the Titans’, and TV adverts clients include Harvey Nichols, Nokia, Freestat and Costa Coffee. In 2014 CAPS and campaign partners spoke out over the BBC’s decision to hire Amazing Animals, to provide wild animal “actors” in its show which documented the history of Chester Zoo.
Owner of Amazing Animals is a Mr Jim Clubb, a well-known animal circus trainer, part of the Chipperfield circus family who have a long history of using animals. He and his business were exposed by CAPS in recent years for taking on four white lion cubs from UK zoo, West Midland Safari Park, and then sending them to join a Japanese circus.
The charity were prompted to carry out the 2015 investigation after a visitor sent them similar footage from a previous open day, which showed a polar bear being made to perform.
Marc Bekoff, CAPS Patron and Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology stated:
“Zara, the polar bear, was showing clear signs of stress when being made to perform. This is clear from her repeated pacing on the spot and shaking her head, classic stereotypic behaviours. To think she lived and died in captivity is tragic.
The use of animals in any form of entertainment is outdated, unethical and unnecessary to say the very least. Intelligent and emotional animals including lions, tigers and polar bears who travel great distances can only lead lives of boredom and misery when forced to live in a cage and trained to perform unnatural tricks on demand.”
Lily, a rhesus macaque monkey, was one of the many species made to perform in a show entitled, ‘Nature or Nurture’ which used a sloth, cockerel, penguin, python, raccoon and a skunk, amongst other animals. Lily had a lead around her body attaching her to the handler on stage. The charity also filmed the use of squirrel monkeys being carried around the site and placed on the shoulders of visitors who could pose to have a photo taken.
Cordelia Britton of UK primate charity, Wild Futures said:
“We are extremely disappointed to see that primates are still used as entertainers in the UK. This practice is highly detrimental to the welfare of the individuals involved in ways that can manifest throughout their lifetimes. This macaque named Lily is tied on a lead in front of a noisy and laughing crowd, away from others of her kind.
In addition to welfare concerns, we also believe that showing a monkey doing tricks in this way may even have a negative impact on the survival of animal populations in the wild, by increasing demand for that species as pets and/or by diminishing concern for their conservation in the wild.”
CAPS also expressed concern over safety at the site as they photographed cracked windows in some of the enclosures, including those containing tigers and a brown bear. The cracks had been painted over with designs to look like leaves. Visitors had also been in contact with CAPS to say that they had “feared for everybody’s safety in the room, particulary the small children” when watching the big cat show, describing the safety cage as “wobbling”.
Nicola O’Brien continued:
“We are calling on the BBC and others to cut ties with Amazing Animals and to move away entirely from using live animals as ‘actors’. The incredible development of CGI makes the need to use live animals redundant and saves a lot of suffering for animals in this industry who spend their lives being trained to perform demeaning tricks and then carted back and forth to TV and film-sets around the world. What we have filmed at Amazing Animals gives us some insight into the lives these animals lead when not on set. “
To find out more about the work of the Captive Animals’ Protection Society to end the use of animals in the TV and media, visit their Animal Pledge website www.animalpledge.org