Councillors in Antrim and Newtownabbey have defended a decision to permit a circus which uses animals in its acts to set up its big top on council-owned land.
Earlier this week the local authority voted to allow Tom Duffy’s Circus to stage a number of performances at Loughshore Park, Jordanstown on June 6 and 10.
Alliance Party Councillor John Blair voiced his opposition to the circus, which uses dogs and horses in some of its acts, on the basis of his belief that animals “shouldn’t be used as entertainment for humans”.
However, while the issue split the chamber and individual parties, members voted 26 - 13 in favour of permitting the circus to use the park.
Defending the decision, DUP Alderman Billy Ball said: “I voted for the circus to go ahead because you’ve got ponies and dogs, it’s not wild animals like lions or tigers. It’s domesticated animals that you see every day.
“If they went down this road where would it end - banning Crufts, closing down all zoos?
“The way I look at it is, if people have a problem and don’t want to go to see this thing then just don’t go and see it. But for this circus to come back year after year to the same location there has to be a demand for it.
“These circuses, when they come to our borough, they are vetted. USPCA get involved and a local vet would be involved as well and if there were any issues they wouldn’t be allowed back again.”
SDLP Alderman Thomas Burns commented: “These animals are well treated and our people will inspect the welfare of the animals while they are on our property, checking that they are well fed and well looked after.”
Alliance Alderman Tom Campbell added: “I think these animals are well treated by their owners and I don’t think there is any evidence of abuse of the animals. If someone has a principled objection to it then that’s a matter for them.”
The News Letter attempted to contact Tom Duffy’s Circus for comment, but there had been no response at the time of publication.