4 October 2005

Animal Defenders International (ADI) and ANIMAL launched a new campaign in Portugal today - World Animal Day and the birthday of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. The press conference is taking place at the Hotel Villa Rica in Lisbon.

This is a joint ANIMAL and ADI campaign to end the use of animals in circuses and the launch represents the fourth 'Stop Circus Suffering' country launch, following the UK, Chile, and Norway.

"This is the start of a very big campaign in Portugal to end the use of animals in circuses here once and for all. No one who sees this video will believe that circuses can continue," said Miguel Moutinho of Portuguese animal welfare group, ANIMAL.

"We've exposed circuses all over the world and these are some of the most shocking scenes we've ever seen," commented Tim Phillips, Campaigns Director of ADI.

Acting on a tip off from a British tourist about a polar bear touring with a Portuguese circus in the summer of 2003, ADI began a series of investigations which ended in August this summer. An ADI field officer obtained a job with a Portuguese circus where he filmed the brutality behind the scenes. Although ADI obtained photographs of the polar bear, the circus disappeared and was never found again. Since then ADI has investigated 11 circuses and a travelling animal exhibition in what is the most comprehensive study of Portuguese circuses ever undertaken. ADI's field officers witnessed horses being whipped and slapped; elephants aggressively manhandled using hooks, and disturbed behaviours demonstrated by many animals - both wild and domestic.

ADI's investigation revealed:

    1. Animals living in inadequate, deprived and unnatural conditions.
    2. Severe confinement, a consistent factor with travelling animal circuses all over the world, was compounded by lack of space to exercise or to perform natural behaviours and lack of social interaction with their own species. There was inadequate provision of food and water. Examples of unnatural and inappropriate husbandry included baboons being kept with mountain lions.
    3. Violence used to control animals. For example, elephants were jabbed and struck with metal elephant hooks; ponies were whipped about their bodies during training; a donkey was being kicked; a pony was hit in the face; a pig screamed whilst a worker tried to fit a collar; elephants were struck about the head.
    4. A range of animals displaying disturbed, repetitive behaviour. This included swaying, pacing, weaving, and head bobbing, seen in bears, chimpanzees, elephants, baboons, tigers and lions. Horses were trying to bite each other and a bear was banging its head against the cage.
    5. Circus workers failing to provide veterinary attention to injured animals.
    6. When circuses moved town, animals were kept in their trailers for unnecessarily long periods - up to 16 times longer than a journey had actually taken.
    7. Poor standards of public safety (and indeed animal safety).

"These findings bring shame on Portugal," said Miguel Moutinho of Portuguese animal welfare group, ANIMAL.

ADI and ANIMAL hosted the joint press conference at the Hotel Villa Rica, Lisbon today. ANIMAL will then be undertaking the campaign in Portugal with support from ADI. Both groups are optimistic that a major push could see the end of the use of animals in Portuguese circuses.

Portuguese experts who are backing the campaign include: Augusta Gaspar, university professor of ethology; Ilda Rosa, veterinary doctor and university professor of animal behaviour and animal welfare; Alexandra Pereira, also a veterinary doctor with a PhD in clinical ethology, animal welfare and animal behaviour; Constança Carvalho, a psychologist and researcher in ethology; Gonçalo Pereira, a veterinary doctor and researcher in clinical ethology and animal welfare; and Manuel Eduardo dos Santos, a biologist and university professor of applied ethology, one of the top Portuguese experts in cetacean behaviour.