The Green Party in Northern Ireland has called on people in North Down and the surroundings areas to boycott a touring circus party when it arrives in Bangor later this month.
Green Party animal welfare spokesman Steven Agnew made his call due to what he called “animal cruelty” worries at travelling circuses, including Circus Sydney.
The circus will be performing at a site on the Belfast Road close to Dixon’s Garden Centre from October 15 to 26.
Mr Agnew said he found it “abhorrent” that Circus Sydney “boasts that it has three baby elephants performing in its acts”.
“Elephants have been shown to be highly intelligent animals as well as exhibiting behaviours associated with complex emotions such as grief,” he said.
“Forcing them to perform acts for human amusement and for circus profit is cruel and I ask people not to support it.
“Bangor is an excellent place to come for family entertainment whether it’s the Picky Fun Park or simply for walks along the coastal path. This type of so called entertainment is neither needed nor welcome.”
Mr Agnew confirmed that a protest will be held when the circus comes to town.
He said he hoped to educate those attending and said some people were “ignorant” of how such circuses are run.
In 2007, a female elephant named Kenya died at the age of 19 while touring with the circus
Circus Sydney owner Yvette Scholl said the death of one of her animals was an “accident”.
“Kenya died from a heart attack after being chased by dogs owned by a performing act at our circus,” she said. The life span of an elephant is approximately 70 years.
UK-based animal protection charity Captive Animals' Protection Society (CAPS) has been campaigning against the use of animals in entertainment since 1957.
A spokesman for CAPS said that performing animals “have no place in the 21st century”.
“A travelling circus cannot meet the needs of animals,” he said.
“With so many amazing human performers, from clowns to acrobats, CAPS encourages circuses to become all-human shows and for the public to boycott all animal circuses, including Circus Sydney while it is in Bangor.”
A spokesman for the USPCA said it “did not approve of circuses with performing animals”.
The spokesman described such practices as “exploitation” and “potentially cruel” and that their training methods “were dubious”.
“The society is opposed to the infliction of pain and suffering on any animal in the name or sport, entertainment or fashion,” he said.
However, Ms Scholl defended her performing practices saying the company treated its animals like they were their own children.
“Circus is an old culture and we need the animals to live and be healthy for our own future welfare,” she said.
“We give them plenty of fruit, hay and water. Essentially they are a part of our family like children.
“We would not treat our real children badly so why would we do the same to our animals?”
Commenting on the upcoming performances in Bangor, Ms Scholl said she was confident the local public would come out and support the circus.
“We were in Bangor last year and the local people came out and supported us,” she said.
“They know what we do and that we wouldn’t treat our animals badly.
“We look forward to seeing everyone again this year.”