Animal activists storm circus
Usually a place for a fun family outing, the Boswell Circus in Durban had its hands full yesterday as protesters descended on it to voice their concerns about cruelty to animals.
As almost 800 people jostled to get into the large marquee at the Sun Coast Casino, motorists hooted and waved at the protesters, some of whom carried placards condemning the "slavery and cruelty" of the circus's handling of the animals.
Steve Smit, leader of Animal Rights in Action and one of the people who protested for three hours, said the animals were subjected to "enormous abuse" in the name of entertainment.
"We want to change the public perception that keeping an animal in a cage is entertainment. Animals must live a natural life and nature takes care of them," he said.
Brian Boswell, owner of the circus, said his employes did not abuse animals and his animals were in good condition.
"People should see for themselves before believing the allegations of animal cruelty made by a group of activists. I think these activists only want publicity," he said. Boswell said he was the fifth generation of his family to be involved in running a circus. His great-grandparents started the business more than 101 years ago.
"We love animals and we believe we are also playing a role in teaching our children. The children attending our shows have never seen [these] animals in real life."
Boswell said he travelled around the country with eight lions, two elephants, eight dogs (only three taking part in the shows), three pigs, six horses and six ponies.
"We take care of these animals with a staff of 60. Our animals are safer than those in the wild, which have to fight for territory and die because of sicknesses. Here there are vets who treat our animals."
Smit - who has been fighting the use of animals in Boswell's circus for 27 years - said the "animals are turned into slaves".
"The elephants are kept running in the cage and chained during the circus. They are denied their right to enjoy nature," he said.
Smit said the use of animals in circuses had been stopped in progressive countries and South Africa should follow suit.
"Most people who attend the circus in KwaZulu-Natal might be those who do not care about animals. But the great majority of people do not attend these circuses because they understand the message," he said.
Protest organiser Jaryd Sage said circuses have been a source of human entertainment for centuries but the public was oblivious to the cruelty and suffering of animals. "People must understand that the abuse is not only about beating animals. Putting an animal in a cage for such a long time is abuse and has to stop. These animals need to have a normal life."
Harvan Naido said he enjoyed watching the animals perform.
"I have no idea about what the protesters are saying but my family enjoys the show," he said.