Sentiment swelling against circus

Animal rights issues leave many towns to consider banning show

James McLeod jmcleod@thetelegram.com
Published on June 10, 2010

The circus is coming to Newfoundland in June, but it will likely be for the last time in several communities, due to animal-rights issues.

Marystown passed a bylaw which will prevent the circus from coming back, but it won't take effect in time to stop the July 1 show.

The circus is coming to Newfoundland in June, but it will likely be for the last time in several communities, due to animal-rights issues.

Marystown passed a bylaw which will prevent the circus from coming back, but it won't take effect in time to stop the July 1 show.

Bonavista Mayor Betty Fitzgerald said she received calls from residents and the circus won't be allowed to perform again next year.

Because the show was already booked, if Bonavista had tried to stop them, they could have been sued.

"Where it was already confirmed, and where the stadium cannot afford to go through that kind of thing, they've got to allow it for this year," she said.

Similarly, the issue came up during a town council meeting in Gander, where Coun. Doug Foley introduced a motion May 19 to keep Cirque Estival out of the town.

The motion was defeated - also for fear of being sued - but Mayor Claude Elliott said it's something to look at before 2011.

Circus director Louis Leonard said he faces this sort of opposition frequently and gets frustrated by it.

"I love animals and the reason that I produce shows with animals is my love for animals," he said. "If I were such a bad business operator, do you think that I would not have been charged by the SPCA?"

In fact, the SPCA has expressed concern about Limba, the elephant which performs in the show.

According to a news release from the Nova Scotia SPCA, Limba attacked a trainer in 2002 in Winnipeg.

The SPCA has also promised to organize a protest at the circus performance in Springdale.

And Scott Saunders, a Nova Scotia animal-rights activist, said the constant moving and continual confinement are bad for the animal.

Saunders said elephants are social animals and being on her own is harmful for Limba.

"Cirque Estival continues to use these types of animals for pure profit only," he said.

"In my opinion they're greedy, and they are making money off the asses of these animals, and it's wrong."

This year Grand Falls-Windsor joined St. John's, Mount Pearl and several other municipalities when it turned down Cirque Estival's permit, essentially forbidding it from performing in town.

But Leonard said that's illegal, and if he challenged it in court, he would win.

"We are a duly incorporated company allowed to do legal business in Canada," he said. "A city that does not allow me to do business - in an aspect of business that is completely legal - then is doing me prejudice."

For at least one community in the province - New-Wes-Valley - the circus coming to town is a non-issue.

Mayor Grant Burry said he hasn't heard anything from residents positive or negative.

However, he doesn't plan on going himself.

"Myself personally, I've got some issues with it, but I don't want to go out and put my impressions on the public one way or the other," he said.

"I'm an animal lover; always was, always will be."

jmcleod@thetelegram.com