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New report suggests circus animal trainer risked foot and mouth disease by undisclosed elephant import

category national | animal rights | press release author Wednesday September 05, 2012 09:46author by CAPS - The Captive Animals Protection Societyauthor email info at captiveanimals dot org Report this post to the editors

A report released on Monday raises concerns that an animal handler working for Courtney Brothers’ Circus, which has travelled the length and breadth of the country this year, was allowed to bypass EU animal health regulations when importing four Asian elephants currently being used in the circus’ shows. The European Commission has confirmed that regulations are in place to prevent the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease.

The report, published by leading animal protection charity, The Captive Animals’ Protection Society, states that, following a year-long spell in Morocco, the European Commission refused the elephants entry back into the European Union. A spokesperson for the Commission stated that there was “a ban on imports of live animals from Morocco (or re-entering into the EU of the elephants in question). Morocco is considered endemic of Foot and Mouth disease and allowing such imports could put the farming community at risk”. However, for reasons unconfirmed, it appears that the French authorities stepped in to allow the animals onto French soil, apparently in direct contravention of import rules, and without the EC’s knowledge.

On being informed of the import by the charity’s investigator, the Commission spokesperson confirmed that the move had been carried out without authorisation, saying: “The Commission is not aware of the elephants having come back to EU soil ... [and] was indeed not informed by the French authorities that the elephants had been imported to France”.

The circus has been no stranger to controversy this year with the escape of one elephant making international news and prompting widespread concerns for the safety of the public and the welfare of the animals. Just days after this incident, which happened in Blackpool, a visitor to the circus was crushed when another elephant fell on top of him. His injuries were so serious that he was put into an induced coma in Cork University Hospital, though he later made a full recovery.

It was later confirmed that the elephants had been “drugged”. The circus claimed that this explained the preceding incidents but the lab that carried out the blood tests said it was unlikely that the drug traces would have caused the elephants’ behaviour. The way in which the drugging was allowed to occur, or who the perpetrator was, was never confirmed and it is thought that no formal action was taken against the circus as a result of any of these incidents.

Liz Tyson, Director of CAPS said:
“We have warned for years that keeping elephants in circuses is not only cruel and absolutely contrary to the most basic welfare needs of these complex, intelligent and physically huge animals, but it is simply an accident waiting to happen. This season alone we have seen that the elephants used in Courtney’s circus may have entered the European Union in contravention of strict animal health laws, we have seen an escape, a serious accident and ultimately, discovered that the elephants had been drugged. It is high time that the circus takes responsibility, both for the animals and the risks, and makes a firm commitment to end the exploitation of elephants, and all other animals, in future seasons”.

The report also raises concerns about the other three circuses using animals in Ireland: Duffy’s, Gerbola and Fossett’s, and questions the Arts Council Ireland’s use of public funds to support animal circuses.

Related Link: http://www.irishcircuses.org/ringofcruelty2

Caption: Ring of Cruelty II

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