Illawarra Mercury – Uproar Over Live Animal Circuses Hits Wollongong

Illawarra Mercury
Thursday May 3, 2007

By MARIO CHRISTODOULOU

THE days when families in Wollongong could see wild animals perform at the circus may soon be numbered.

An animal liberation group is lobbying councillors to ban circuses which use exotic animals from performing on council grounds.

Their views have gained support among some who believe live-animal performances encourage cruel practices.

Animal liberation group Voiceless last week contacted all Wollongong councillors.

At the moment, circuses with exotic animals are permitted within the city, with the council liaising with the RSPCA to monitor the animals’ treatment.

Nearby Wingecarribee Shire Council has just banned exotic animal circuses on public land after being lobbied by Voiceless.

Deputy Mayor Nick Campbell-Jones said the council fought hard to push through the changes despite a community backlash against the idea.

“For anyone to argue that you should have a lion in a small cage is wrong … I mean, human freak shows were legal 80 years ago,” he said.

Voiceless member Barry Spurr said the circuses set a bad example for children.

“What we are trying to achieve is that Wollongong City Council will follow the approach of other councils and stop the circuses on council-controlled land,” he said.

But Jan Lennon, who owns Stardust Circus and the 113-year-old Lennon Bros Circus, said claims of animal cruelty were false and anyone who worried about the animals’ treatment should go to the circus and judge for themselves.

“We would never use the training methods they accuse us of,” she said.

“And there is no way we would tolerate any cruelty to the animals.”

Both Kiama Municipal Council and Shellharbour City Council have no policy prohibiting the use of land for live animal circuses.

Wollongong councillor Andrew Anthony said he would consider the proposal.

“In the 21st century I do not think there is a place for circuses with wild animals,” he said.

Lord Mayor Alex Darling said circuses with animals were very popular in the area.

“At the last circus I heard rave reviews and the people that attended seemed very happy,” he said.