The Rose-Tinted Menagerie


A History of Animals in Entertainment,

from Ancient Rome to the 20th Century

by William M Johnson

with introductions by Desmond Morris

(author of the Human Zoo and The Naked Ape)

and the late Sadruddin Aga Khan

with 47 colour and b/w illustrations

Available on Amazon from July 2012


William M Johnson’s critically-acclaimed The Rose-Tinted Menagerie has been republished by Iridescent as an illustrated Amazon Kindle ebook.Hailed as ‘a ground-breaking work’ upon its original release in 1990, the book explores the role of animals in entertainment, from the gladiatorial contests of ancient Rome and the travelling shows of the Middle Ages, to the circuses and dolphinaria of the 20th century.


Behind the colourful ‘rose-tinted’ façade, the ‘exuberant’ somersaults of the dolphin, the ‘harmless fun’ of the chimps’ tea party, the ‘awesome’ spectacle of elephants performing under the Big Top, the author discovers a far greyer world characterised by exploitation, cruelty and deprivation — from the capture of animals in the wild, through their training, confinement, transport and performances to the crowds.

Among the victims of the same vast animal trade, he finds trained dolphins, chimps and other animals utilised in military experiments — some even preparing for World War III.


About the author William M Johnson


Prior to its first publication in 1990, author and investigative journalist William M Johnson spent five years researching The Rose-Tinted Menagerie. His research took him to big tops, menageries and dolphin pools throughout the length and breadth of Europe, and to circus shows from as far afield as the Soviet Union and the United States.

From his own undercover work and from the testimony of scores of ex-circus and dolphin show staff, by 1990 Johnson had built up a formidable catalogue of evidence that, upon publication, dismayed wildlife experts, shocked the casual reader and provoked political debate: The Rose-Tinted Menagerie.

While some establishments have shut their doors forever — such as the infamous dolphin ‘striptease’ revue at the Moulin Rouge in Paris — these historical snapshots lucidly expose forms of cruelty and exploitation tragically still all too prevalent elsewhere, from the brutal capture of dolphins from the wild, to sordid travelling dolphin shows in the Far East.

For further information, please contact:

• The Publisher,

• The Author, William M Johnson,

• To request an editorial review copy, fill out the simple online form.

Free excerpts available on Amazon / Iridescent.


Critical acclaim for The Rose-Tinted Menagerie


‘…Nothing in nature can quite match the wilful viciousness, manipulation and self-aggrandisement displayed by the human mammals who run The Rose-Tinted Menagerie. The setting for William Johnson’s angry book is a small and specialised one: the world of circuses, menageries, safari parks and dolphinaria; of animals as entertainment. But because the animal show is, literally, a dramatisation of our superiority over the animal kingdom, an enactment of little parables of mastery and servitude, it is also a microcosm of our whole relationship with nature…’ — Richard Mabey, The Independent on Sunday

‘A ground-breaking work… of great importance…’ — Tom Regan

‘An outstanding investigation…’ — Naomi Lewis, Books of the Year, The Observer

‘… should be read by anyone who cares about the welfare of animals.’ — Desmond Morris

‘It reads like a novel – its content sensational, but its scholarship impeccable. The author has spent five painstaking years piecing together a catalogue of barbarity which will shock and sicken millions of people who for years have unwittingly enjoyed the performances of captive animals…’ — Sadruddin Aga Khan

‘William Johnson carries the argument for the abolition of wild animals in circuses to a point where it can no longer be silenced with the cry of ‘tradition — the circus is part of our heritage’. Children down the mines and slavery were as well.’ — Virginia McKenna

‘…a useful, educational, and wonderful book…’ — Ingrid E. Newkirk

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