After publishing an article detailing animal rights group Ban Animal Trading’s (BAT)’s Facebook post pleading with residents not to support South Africa’s last surviving circus, the enterprise has come out in defence of its business and practices.
McLaren Circus’ presence in Gauteng set off a series of protests last month, but circus spokesperson and PR consultant Karl Hildebrandt slammed what he called The Citizen’s “extremely biased” reporting.
A Facebook post from BAT dated July 18 claimed that McLaren circus uses Puruma Pride Lion Farm in the Free State as a holding facility for its animals. The facility, owned by Toit Brink, has been implicated in canned lion hunting and has a constant lion cub population.
The Citizen subsequently reported on the Facebook post, and was criticised by Hildebrandt for launching a “light-hearted attack” on McLaren, by using “bully tactics”, which the circus complained was in an alleged bid to detract residents from attending the shows.
Hildebrandt said that McLaren is not involved in Puruma’s business dealings, and that it was listed a base merely because this is required for the import and export of wild animals. McLaren, he said, only uses the facility as a listing, but has not actually used premises as a holding facility.
“Puruma Farm was purely listed as a housing facility, as they are equipped with big cat facilities. We have never utilised their facilities, nor have we been part of financially contributing to their business dealings.”
In defence of the ethics involved in training animals to perform tricks for cash, McLaren says it does not breed animals, and that its animals come from captive breeding facilities.
“We do not request for the breeding of any animal; we have only ever provided a safe house for these animals, who have been donated to us,” Hildebrandt added.
He went on to explain that the subjective view that circuses with wild animals are exhibiting an outdated form of cruelty was based on everyone’s differing personal morals and beliefs.
Referring to BAT’s recent protest action against the circus, Hildebrandt said “I feel it’s unethical to have an underage child stand in the hot sun protesting against whatever they may, but the animal rightist [believes] this is their choice to express ‘compassion’.
“I find it unethical that a journalist would express their disapproval for an industry that ‘profits’ off animals, but works for an establishment that provides convenience to readers to make money off a similar industry (horse racing).
“I do not believe that our animals would be ‘better’ in a rehabilitation facility,” he explained, which he said was reiterated recently while speaking with an independent veterinarian. The vet was said to have told Hildebrandt that McLaren’s big cats were in a better condition than big cats in sanctuaries, most likely due to them being “on a healthier diet”, and the “enrichment” received through exercise during performances.
In conclusion, Hildebrandt said the circus provides “a well-balanced family show that caters to every age, racial group as well as to every religious and cultural background”.
He went on to thank the community for showing their support, and that thanks to the success of the circus, they had extended their stay in Roodepoort.
“Even though we cater for everyone, it is quite interesting to see the demographic of the ‘elitist’ minority opposing our hard work and amazing circus show,” he added.