Belly Wien circus set to open tonight despite altercations between circus staff and animal welfare activists
By Mary Dennehy
It has been confirmed by Belly Wien Circus that they will open tonight despite an altercation between circus staff and animal welfare activists yesterday that saw six people arrested and a number of others injured.
As part of its Irish tour, Belly Wien set up camp on land behind The Cuckoo’s Nest earlier this week – an arrival which sparked outrage among animal welfare groups and a number of local people.
The family-run circus is on tour with around 60 animals, including camels, lamas, bovines, dogs, many different breeds of horses and three elephants, which have been with Belly Wien for around 40 years.
In recent weeks, Belly Wien, owned by Circus Renz International, hit headlines after its elephant parades through a number of Irish towns angered many – sparking impromptu and organised protests and reigniting calls for the banning of animal circuses in Ireland.
On Wednesday, a protest was staged outside Belly Wien’s camp behind The Cuckoo’s Nest, during which animal welfare activists and local people made a stand against the use of wild animals by the circus.
According to reports, a number of people were being brought in to view the conditions in which the animals were being kept when a serious altercation commenced, which saw Gardaí called to the scene and a number of people brought to hospital with injuries.
A senior Garda source confirmed to The Echo that six people were arrested and that they are currently investigating a number of allegations concerning assault, criminal damage and public order offences.
The Echo spoke with German trapeze artist Nadja Scholl earlier in the week about the reaction to the circus’ arrival.
She told The Echo: “We do not chain our animals, they can walk free.
“These animals, especially the elephants, are used to this circus life since they were babies. They have been with the circus for 40 years and know no different.
“We are their family and they are ours and we keep them in good condition, and they have big containers to stay in when travelling.
“We cannot just release them back into the wild, they couldn’t care for themselves and you would be taking them away from their family.”
When asked about widespread welfare concerns for the mental and physical health of wild animals in circuses, Nadja said: “I would welcome more controls, this is not a problem for us.
“I have grown up with these elephants and I know they are happy and healthy.
“All of our animals were checked by a vet when we arrived in Rosslare Harbour and some animal welfare people have also visited us, nobody has found any of our animals to be in bad condition or distressed.”
Belly Wien is due to start an 11-day run behind The Cuckoo’s Nest in Tallaght this Thursday, March 24, with NARA (National Animal Rights Association) due to protest at the circus this Thursday, March 24, and local residents and animal welfare activists making a stand on Friday, March 25.
Kingswood resident Patricia Lanney, who runs an animal rescue told The Echo: “I have organised a peaceful, public protest at the circus on Friday evening, and I hope people living across the area will join us in support between 6.30pm and 8pm [March 25].
“Parading animals around in circuses is outdated and I don’t think people want to see it or agree that it is right.”
The ISPCA (Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) recently called for a complete ban on the use of wild animals in circuses in Ireland and asked people to join its Big Stop campaign by signing a petition.
According to the ISPCA: “Circuses serve no conservation purpose and fail to educate their visitors about the animals used by them.
“Instead, sentient, intelligent wild animals are held for their lifetimes in substandard and wholly inadequate conditions for the sole purpose of performing for circus audiences.”
The Netherlands recently became the ninth EU country to introduce a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses and as a result, according to the ISPCA, two circuses recently travelled to Ireland with 65 animals, including three elephants and Bactrian camels.
“Don’t let Ireland become the dumping ground for wild animal circuses as more EU countries move to ban this out-dated activity, which should be consigned to the history books.”
South Dublin County Council introduced a ban on wild animal circuses on public lands in 2014.