A hidden camera has recorded footage of circus workers in the UK kicking a 57-year-old elephant, and striking her with a metal pitchfork.
Animal Defenders International (ADI) released footage from behind the scenes at the winter quarters of Bobby Roberts Super Circus, (in Polebrook, Northamptonshire) showing Anne, an Asian elephant, being repeatedly struck while tethered to the floor by a short chain. During a three-and-a-half week period 48 strikes were recorded.
The elephant, who suffers from arthritis, was chained during the entire period, only able to take one step forward or backwards.
Anne was captured in the wild, in Sri Lanka, as a baby. When she was young, she was one of several elephants performing with Bobby Roberts Super Circus, but she is now Britain's last circus elephant.
Organisations concerned about her welfare have been campaigning for years to have her retired to a wildlife sanctuary, but Roberts claims that separating her from the circus would be cruel.
“ADI has been concerned for Annie’s welfare for many years and have followed her tragic plight," Jan Creamer, ADI’s Chief Executive, said in a press release. "Poor Annie has been with the circus for over 50 years since she was baby, having been caught in the wild and torn from her family. Elephants are social and extremely intelligent so this has been a living hell for her. At last we have managed to expose this circus operation for the cruel farce that it is and never again can Roberts preach about animal welfare and how well his animals are cared for.”
The Daily Mail reported that, when confronted with the evidence,Roberts said he would fire the groom paid to take care of Anne.
"I can't believe this has happened under my nose," he said. "We trusted him and we'd check on her every hour or so, but I can't be there 24 hours a day."
He said they have talked about sending her to a sanctuary, but those are far away and the journey would kill her.
Anne does spend several months every year travelling with the circus. She no longer performs, but is brought out so that people can pay to have their photos taken with her.
"Travelling with our circus are our horses, ponies, dogs, our circus born camel and our magnificent retired Indian Elephant, Anne who has been a part of our family for over fifty years," states the Bobby Roberts Super Circus website. "We are proud of our animal welfare and you our visitors are able to see for yourself after the performance our circus animals in their stable area."
ADI is now discussing the potential for legal action with its lawyers.
“Our latest investigation shows how animals like elephants suffer in the travelling circus," said ADI’s Campaigns Director Tim Phillips. "In the name of entertainment they are beaten, jabbed with hooks and hit with pitchforks, chained up for hours every day, and pushed into metal boxes each week where they remain for hours on end whilst the circus moves to another site. And when they are meant to be resting in their winter quarters the abuse and cruelty continues.
“The public wants to see a ban, Parliament wants a ban, animal protection groups want a ban. A ban is the only way to put an end, once and for all, to this deplorable violence and deprivation, and government must act now.”
Government public consultation in March 2010 indicated that 94.5 per cent of the public want to see a ban on wild animals in circuses.
The video also shows workers striking horses and ponies, and one is seen spitting at a camel.
Filming was done in January and February, and the Bobby Roberts Super Circus began its UK tour on March 24.