Controversial Circus Mondao, which uses wild animals in its show, has returned to Caerphilly County Borough and has been met by opposition.
The travelling circus is based at Tir-y-Berth until Monday, May 6. It is the 14th time the circus has visited the area and organisers have defended its record on animal wellbeing.
It has seven horses, five ponies, one mule, one donkey, two camels, two reindeer, five llamas, one zebra and numerous ducks, chickens and pigeons – all of which were born and bred in the UK.
Caerphilly AM Hefin David has called for the use of wild animals in circuses to be banned “as soon as possible”.
Dr David said: “The RSPCA have said placing an animal in surroundings unsuitable for the species can cause serious stress and behavioural problems. Surely we should not be allowing such distress to continue in 2019.
“In 2015 I stood in protest at the same site in Tir-y-Berth when the Thomas Chipperfield circus came here. The use of animals in circuses belongs in the past.”
— Dr Hefin David AC/AM (@hef4caerphilly) May 1, 2019
Circus Mondao organiser Petra Jackson said she looked after the animals herself and that the circus is fully licensed by the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
She said: “The animals are looked after in the correct manner. They are fed, watered, wormed and vetted. They want for nothing.
“We have seven inspections a year. Zoos only have an inspection once every three years. We do feel victimised, but we want to show people that we are looking after the animals.
“A lot of these animal rights campaigners know nothing about animals. We’ve got nothing to hide.”
Ms Jackson added: “I’ve always been an animal person. I ran away and joined the circus when I was 16.”
Circus Mondao is based in England and licensed under the Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012.
The Welsh Government is planning on banning the use of wild animals in travelling circuses.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “In October last year, we consulted on a draft Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Wales) Bill. We received over 6,500 responses with 97% supporting our proposal to introduce legislation that would make it an offence for a wild animal to be used in a travelling circus.
“We have taken into account the responses to inform the further development of the Bill which will be introduced to the Assembly later this year. A ban will send a clear message that the people of Wales believe this practice to be an outdated notion and ethically unacceptable.”
But Ms Jackson explained that when this law comes into effect, the camels and zebra will have to leave the circus.
“Ms Jackson said: “The ban is being brought in on ethical grounds. It has nothing to do with animal welfare.
“Our horses do dressage and the liberty act, but our camels and zebras don’t do anything unnatural – they don’t do backflips, they don’t walk on wires or jump through hoops of fire.
“The zebra will be taken away from its family after the ban is imposed. The ban means they can’t live here anymore.”
A spokesperson for RSPCA Cymru said: “RSPCA Cymru has long campaigned against the use of wild animals in circuses. Fortunately, in Wales, we are now closer than ever to legislative action to consign this out-dated practice to the history books.
“The transient nature of circuses, in addition to unsuitable accommodation and forced training, make them wholly unsuitable environments for wild animals – and that has long been a central focus for the RSPCA.
“However, other animals that are not wild, and are domesticated, also often appear in the circus environment.
“The welfare of any animal used in entertainment or performance must be paramount. That includes providing appropriate accommodation and enrichment for any animal.”
As well as animals, the show will feature 15 human performers and will run 11 times before moving onto the next location.