Screen_Shot_2014-06-19_at_8.25.39_PMThe circus is coming to town! This familiar phrase conjures vivid images of amazing acrobats, capering clowns and exotic animals. Unlike the human performers who choose to work in circuses, however, exotic animals are forced to take part in the show. While many circuses are quick to advertise good old-fashioned family fun, the fine print tells a different story: the needless suffering of animals. With that said, it has been several years since the Circus has made an appearance in Orange Walk Town and the Ponce Hermanos Circus has set up their ‘big top’ tents at the Barracks of Town. As with any ‘foreign’ entities entering our borders, check- ups and inspections are conducted. Today, our news team tagged along with members of the Belize Agriculture health Authority (BAHA), Public Health inspector and officials of the Forestry Department as they conducted their second inspection. Reporter Maria Novelo and Video Journalist were on site and filed this following report.


Maria Novelo – Reporting


Common sense tells us that a 1000 pound Camel or a tiger with 3-inch-long razor-sharp teeth would naturally dominate a human being, and that he could not be forced into doing something he does not want to do. But the circus maxim is "The show must go on," and so it does, whether or not the animals are willing or even able to participate. Today, the final touches of setting up for the weekends biggest spectacle, that will draw throngs of people to the ‘Big Top’, was met with a second inspection conducted by officials of BAHA, Forestry Department and Public Health. Their main goal was to ascertain if the operation is safe from harmful, unsanitary practices and over all well-being. Karel Heredia is the Public Health Inspector in the Ministry of Health.


Karel Heredia – Public Health Inspector


“It was more than satisfactory; I could say that, no red flags were raised but just remember that public health is about prevention and my inspection conducted was just basically to see when it comes to public health safety and the regulations applied and food handling and that is it minimizing the infection, and transmission and also the safety of the general public when they attend the circus.”


From a veterinary stand point, these officials have conducted a detailed inspection since the Circus first arrived in Corozal and moved to Orange Walk Town. Joe Myers, Veterinary Officer at the Belize Agriculture Health Authority, says they have seen an improvement in the animals’ health.


Joe Myers – Veterinary Officer, BAHA


“These are what we call routine follow up inspections; very detail inspection is done upon the animals being allowed entry into the country meaning that there had to be tests that were carried out and we verify the documentation and there is a physical examination done on these animals. Then what we do like with all importation we do periodic inspections just to determine if that has been any changes in health status.”


Maria Novelo – Reporter


“What is the report been like?”


Joe Myers – Veterinary Officer, BAHA


“This is the second actually, we did one in Corozal and this is a follow-up inspection and we’ve seen significant improvement in the sense that some of the animals had lost a bit of weight which could be due to the stress and change in feed and so on and this week we saw significant improvement.”


Screen_Shot_2014-06-19_at_8.24.58_PMAnd while many believe that these animals are being subjected to cramped, unnatural living conditions; travel for most of the year; cruel training methods that use violence, fear, and intimidation; it’s considered a spectacle and amusement for many loud crowds under bright lights. So this begs the question “is this thriving industry an unregulated haven for animal cruelty?”


Joe Myers – Veterinary Officer, BAHA


“It’s a form of what we would call anxiety but these animals has been in captivity almost forever so they are a bit use to it and as I understand it there is a down side to it because these animals savage, wild so to speak is not easy for them to be taking it out and exercise but the owner did explained that they did some exercise within the confine of the cages is because as you can see there are partitions and the cage could actually be enlarged at any time."


But what about the waste the animals create…Won’t this pose a health risk?


Joe Myers – Veterinary Officer, BAHA


“Notwithstanding, waste could also be an nuisance specially from the tigers and lions because of the smell and the consistency and people not walking into it so what they do in most of the cages or places they have sawdust or other material which allows for the faecal matter to be absorb and dryer and then they scrap them up and then they take it to the dump to be disposed.”


Despite an increased public awareness and better protections for animals on other issues, little has changed over the years in the way that animals in circuses are treated.


Maria Novelo – Reporter


“From a veterinary standpoint, not professionally personally I would like to ask you for your opinion in terms of we all know these are wild animals but they are being held captive and being coarse to perform in a show, how do you feel about that do you condone or condemn it?”


Joe Myers – Veterinary Officer, BAHA


“They are being held captive and there are other entities which look after that and I am not against it from a personal stand point, it is a form of making a living, it is entertainment for people and as long as there is no abuse then I basically no problem so to speak.”


Maria Novelo - Reporter


“Is it safe to say that they have met and match all the prerequisites to operate fully?”


Karel Heredia – Public Health Inspector


“Well, another inspection has to be done tomorrow because tomorrow they will be operating so recommendations were given to them which they have to follow tomorrow.”


Maria Novelo - Reporter


“What are those recommendations?”


Karel Heredia – Public Health Inspector


“Basically, cleaning, disinfecting, proper food handling and having good water and good hygiene practices and so on.”

 

Whether the combination of captive wild animals, chaotic crowds, and the stress of training and constant travel and exhibition is a recipe for disaster, as in the circus industry maxim….“The show must go on”.

 

There is an increasing trend across the world to have bans or severe restrictions placed on circuses containing exotic animals. Countries that have total bans are Israel, Sweden and Singapore. The US has many localities with outright bans and many more with varying levels of restrictions.

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