Lion Ark storms the festivals, but meanwhile LA let the animals down

The Lion Ark film festival tour continued with three shows in Ft Lauderdale, Florida, which was wonderful. We are on our way to DC now for meetings, then to Charlottesville to play at the Virginia Film Festival, followed by Denver Film Festival – all very exciting.

We have three shows at Denver (four screenings for schools). The Denver schedule also includes two important after party fundraisers for Peru, as their government has asked us to perform the same task as we did for Bolivia.

The Bolivian circus rescue is, of course, the subject of Lion Ark and audiences have been enjoying this close up and personal in-the-thick-of-the-action animal rescue – you can enjoy the adventure, will leave with a real understanding about the use of animals in traveling circuses.
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Thoughts on Los Angeles

It remains a huge disappointment that the Los Angeles City Council decided to go for the weakest option for their circus ordinance – a prohibition on the use of the bullhook (ankus) and other implements like pitchforks, when used to control elephants in a “performance related context”.

Worse still, the ban was postponed for three years. This could mean up to five years before anything can be done to end the suffering of wild animals in circuses in LA; three years waiting for the ordinance to come into force and then maybe a year or more before its effectiveness has been assessed.

Whilst phase-outs often occur when animal use (either all, or wild animals) is being eliminated, there seems no logical reason for a delay for prohibiting a control tool for a single species.

Ordinances to ban tools cannot address the issue of the suffering caused by deprived, barren environments, constant travel, small spaces and confinement. Animals being forced to stand in the same place for many hours at a time suffer stiffness and pain in their joints and commonly amongst the elephants, foot problems and arthritic conditions. The restriction of natural behaviors has an effect on both mind and body – the abnormal pacing, rocking, swaying seen in all species of animals used in traveling – lions, tigers, bears, elephants and others (including domestics) is the result of the deprivation and stress they endure. They slowly go out of their minds.

We believe there are weaknesses with banning the use of implements like bullhooks and pitchforks from circuses rather than the use of animals, and these need to be addressed. In over 20 years of investigations we have recorded animals being beaten by all kinds of tools, from shovels and brooms to iron bars, fists, whips and anything else that is to hand, such as a golf club.

There are significant enforcement issues to address with prohibitions on tools: Difficulties with monitoring, especially since most of the abuse filmed by ADI in circuses has been behind the scenes. Circuses may adapt their behavior in public; one has already circumvented such a ban by using bamboo canes to control their elephants in public.

Around the world, there are now hundreds of local bans on the use of animals in circuses – Europe, the UK, South America, the US and Asia. Twenty-five countries have national legislation ending traveling animal circus shows and others, including the UK, have legislation under consideration. In the US, there are over 30 local bans on animal circuses (wild or all animals) in 18 states. These ordinances and national laws point to the most effective way to protect these animals – take them out of the circus shows.

A strategy with inherent difficulties like a ban on tools or other implements commonly used in animal husbandry, rather than on the presence of the animals in such deprived and vulnerable circumstances, can only be regarded as a last resort, and deficiencies would need to be addressed. To ask for the weakest measure first is not, in our view, the best way to protect animals.

We cannot envisage that any of the animal circus bans we have worked on in the US and around the world, would have been achieved if we had asked for a ban on tools/weapons or equipment, rather than removal of the animals from unacceptable conditions.

See our LA City update:
And the US circus campaign at:

We continue to work hard for local ordinances across the US and perhaps other cities will join with this worldwide movement and take the progressive step to enact effective protection for animals.

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