Abuse of circus animals in Lebanon challenges lack of legal framework

Submitted by Maurice Picow on January 18, 2010 – 8:57 am

More western countries are banning circuses with animals, and allow only humans to perform. Can Lebanon and the Middle East change their passion for this cruel form of entertainment?

The circus came to town in Beirut Lebanon; but will have to leave in a hurry after it was discovered that animals brought to participate in the events had been terribly abused. As we reported last week on Lions, Tigers and Bears in Lebanon (thanks to the Media Line), a small circus which brought a number of animals into Lebanon to perform there, were subjecting a lion cub and 4 other lions, three tigers, some snakes and a number of domestic animals to very cruel conditions, including keeping them in small, cramped cages, depriving them of adequate food and water, and (in the case of the lion cub) actually de-clawing it and not providing proper veterinary medical attention.

In fact, the poor lion cub, had not only been de-clawed, but was kept in a small, filthy cage, without medical attention to its swollen paws, which had become infected.

The problem reached a stage where the animals should have been confiscated and sent to a zoo or similar facility where they would receive better treatment. But the laws being what they are in a country that is being increasingly influenced by Islamic Law, in which animals and other aspects of the environment are supposed to receive better treatment, all that could be done was to order the animals’ owner to leave Lebanon within 24 hours.

Lebanese Agriculture Minister Hussein al-Hajj Hassan declared the circus illegal and ordered its immediate closure after animal welfare campaigners alerted his office to the circus’s mistreatment and incorrect paperwork.

As said by Jason Mier, Executive Director of Animals Lebanon to The Daily Star:

“I would have preferred for the animals to be confiscated and the minister indicated that’s what he would have preferred to do, but the legal framework just isn’t there.”

Speaking of zoos, the Animals Lebanon animal rights group was able to force the closure last February of a small filthy “zoo” containing nearly 40 animals living in rusty cages and in the midst of their own feces. These unfortunate creatures included some bears, a monkey, porcupines, and vulture, and others. In the case of the circus, all that could be done is to force the promoters to take the animals out of the country.

Incidentally, Animals Lebanon not only succeeded in convincing Lebanese Agricultural Minister Dr. Hussein Hajj Hassan to close down the Monte Carlo Circus (the circus that brought these animals to Lebanon from Egypt), but may also convince the Lebanese authorities to confiscate the animals and send them to a protective sanctuary in order to prevent their further abuse.

What is interesting is that of all the countries which represent the Arab World, Lebanon and Bahrain are the only Arab states who have not signed the 1975 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), to which 175 states are a party. The treaty not only prohibits the trade of wild animal species, especially those being imported and sold as pets, but also clothing and other items made from the feathers and skins of these animals . Israel ratified the Treaty in 1979, although even there some wild animals are still smuggled into the country and sold in pet stores, etc. A huge shipment of coral, for example, was confiscated by the authorities last year on its way to the West Bank.

But despite this minor victory in respect to the circus being forced to leave the country, the affair is a long way from being over and family members of the circus owners are trying to overturn the court ruling. Even some big name circuses have been accused of abusing their animals, including ones like Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey.

Animals are as important an aspect of our environment as climate factors. But unfortunately not enough is being done on their behalf. While no zoos or circuses are perfect, many do make efforts to care for the animals they are in charge of, including Israel’s Safari Park near Tel Aviv. We prefer animal-less circuses, anyway, like Cirque de Soleil.

:: Daily Star

http://www.greenprophet.com/2010/01/18/16110/lebanon-circus-animal-rights/

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Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at https://bigcatrescue.org

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