A travelling circus that has just pitched up in Mid Ulster, has defended its use of tigers after complaints from animal lovers protesting at its gate.
But even before it arrived, this newspaper had received a number of emails from local people concerned about the welfare of the circus’ animals, including its tigers.
Helen Davies, contacted the Mail to say: “I see that Courtney Brothers Daredevil Circus is coming to town!
“They have five Bengal tigers that live in a cage 23 1/2 hours a day - If we did this with our average domestic moggy it would be considered totally unacceptable.”
While another woman, Leigh Davies, told our reporter: “Anybody with half a brain would know it’s not right - tigers doing tricks is sad and old fashioned. It’s time to evolve.”
Further animal rights protestors took their views to the circus itself, staging a silent protest outside on its opening night near the Castledawson roundabout in Magherafelt.
One member of the group, Daniel Barclay said: “We don’t believe any animal should be paraded round in a circus.
“Tigers travel between eight and 150 square miles per day in the wild, yet they’ve got a couple of metres of cage there. I find it abhorrent and disgusting.”
Another protestor, who wished to be known only as Lindsay, said: “I’m not saying that they don’t do their best to take care of their animals, they may well feed them and give them water and medical care, but that’s not all they need.
“They need stimulation and if you look at the size of those cages they’re just not getting it.”
The one problem we do have is when they turn around and say that we’re abusing the animals
In response to the concerns, Courtney Brother’s General Manager, James Conway said: “Our animals are very well cared for. You can come any day of the week and see our circus. We’re not hiding here - we’re on a main road. There are no closed doors.”
When asked about the size of the cages in which the tigers travelled, he said they had to be small to keep them safe on journeys, but that they were allowed the run of the circus tent and another outside pen the rest of the time.
“I have no problem whatsoever with people standing outside protesting and having their opinion, whether they like the animals inside the circus or outside the circus.
“There’s an opinion about everything in the world,” he went on, “but the one problem we do have is when they turn around and say that we’re abusing the animals.
“On numbers of occasion I have asked them to come in and see the animals, but they won’t, they don’t want to come in and see anything positive - it has to be negative.”
“Don’t further your opinion by turning round and saying we’re beating up animals and keeping them locked up and not feeding them - That’s just lies and rubbish.
“Sometimes it gets personal, that’s what annoys me.”