THE circus might still be coming to town, despite a decision by local councillors turning down a request by Tom Duffy’s Circus for the use of Loughshore Park and Sixmilewater Park.
At their full council meeting on April 29, a majority of members voted against Mr Duffy’s application, with some branding circuses which use animals “cruel” and “archaic”. Some even called for the local authority to introduce a policy banning circuses which use animals from its land permanently - a proposal that will be debated by the council’s Policy and Governance Committee.
However, although the move has forced Duffy’s to cancel its planned shows in Ballyclare and Jordanstown later this month, circus manager Mark McFerran says they will be making a new application in the hope that the council will grant them permission to set up at Loughshore Park in June.
“Obviously we are very disappointed by the council’s decision, but we intend to make a new application and will be contacting councillors individually and be putting our case forward to them,” he told the Times.
Mr McFerran said that during Duffy’s last visit to Loughshore a few years ago, more than 5,000 people saw the show over five days - making the Jordanstown park one of its most successful venues. And he appealed to local people who have enjoyed the circus over the years to make their opinions known to their local councillors.
Mr McFerran stressed that people’s views on using animals in circuses is “an ethical issue and not a welfare issue”, adding that the animals used in Duffy’s Circus are well looked after.
“Our animals are fed, watered and groomed numerous times each day while great care is taken to ensure that each individual animal is in top condition. Our animal trainers teach our animals routines that are within their natural ability and showcase their natural beauty; although it may look complicated all our animals do is walk, run, jump and sit up.
“Our animals are great performers, their routines are tailored to each animal’s natural abilities and individual preferences which we observe during their playtime. Reinforced through a system of reward and repetition, these abilities and behaviours are linked together on cue which ultimately becomes the routine that the audience sees,” he commented.
“The USPCA are free to come and inspect our animals whenever they like, and if there is a problem they can take action against us.
“We know the USPCA hierarchy is opposed to circuses with animals in general, but the individual inspectors who’ve come out to us have always found our animals to be in excellent condition, excellent health and have remarked that our animals are in excellent shape.”
Circus owner Tom Duffy added: “I will be very disappointed if we don’t get to visit Newtownabbey this year; my family have been visiting the area for well over 100 years and have always been made to feel more than welcome. During all these years there has never even been an allegation of the abuse of our animals.”
It’s understood that Mr Duffy plans to invite all local councillors to the circus to see for themselves the way the animals are treated and the conditions they are kept in.