For the love of animals

A circus tour through the country have many excited some, but others claim it is tantamount to animal abuse.

03 March 2019 | Events

Animals were also brought into the country when filmmakers shot Mad Max in Namibia. This is the same principle. Jan Marais. Yin Yang Investment

Windhoek • Yolanda Nel

Namibians are divided about plans by the McLaren Circus to visit different towns in the country later this year.

The South African-based circus said in February that they are planning a tour through Namibia in June. Since going public, the McLaren Circus Namibian Tour Facebook page already has more than 1 500 likes. While comments are generally positive with many keen to see the show live, one disgruntled Namibian started a petition to stop the circus from performing here. The petition host, known only as Liberty, began it by addressing the Minister of Environment, Pohamba Shifeta.

“Namibia is synonymous with wildlife and conversation. This may not always be the case within our legislation but internationally we are renowned for the beauty and splendour of our animals,” read the petition.

Liberty says that captivity is not something she agrees with. “Wild animals are meant to be wild. They are designed to function in their environments, with their family groups. Taking them from these environments and transporting them over long distances to perform artless, degrading tricks for human entertainment, is nothing short of abuse.”

According to Jan Marais of Yin Yang Investment who is hosting the circus, the idea is to bring a new experience to Namibians.

“We wanted to host a fun event and we knew it had to be something different,” Marais said during an interview with this newspaper. The team is aware of the petition and are of mind that people are entitled to their opinions. “Yes, animal cruelty is a serious offense and definitely not something we endorse,” he said, “but we did due diligence because this event will also have an impact on our Yin Yang brand.”

No charges

Marais said that in the 14 years the McLaren Circus has been in operation, no animal abuse charges have ever been laid against the circus owner. In May 2016, the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) in South Africa launched a review application against the senior magistrate of Pretoria, the circus and its owner, David McLaren, to review the first respondent's decision taken on 30 December 2014 to renew the licence and certificate of second and third respondents issued.

In an article published by News24 on 23 January 2017, it was reported that the SPCA in Cape Town inspected McLaren's animals and nothing untoward had been found. According to Judge RG Tolmay, the matter was moot as no controversy exists that the court had to decide on, nor was it in the interest of justice. As a result, the application was dismissed.

Marais said that they appointed a legal team to make sure they meet all necessary requirements and to stay within the law. Although bringing a circus to town is new to Namibia, this is not the first time animals are being brought into the country for a limited time. “Animals were also brought into the country when filmmakers shot Mad Max. This is the same principle and we want to do everything above board,” Marais said.

SPCA says…

The SPCA Namibia released a statement earlier this week saying that if the circus has obtained a licence in terms of the Performing Animals Act, they may legitimately operate within Namibia. Whilst here though, they must adhere to the provisions of the Animals Protection Act, and the SPCA will conduct inspections at the circus to ensure that they do.

“Most animal welfare groups oppose wild animals in circuses, the SPCA is no exception. Circuses inhibit animals from expressing natural behaviour, regardless of whether the animal is wild or domesticated,” the statement read.

Marais said that they had talks with the SPCA in October last year, where they shared their plans regarding the circus.

Venues for the proposed shows have been tentatively reserved. Pending the approval of the license, show dates will be confirmed. “As yet, we have not opened for ticket sales. We want to make sure that everything is in place so we can offer Namibians a once in lifetime opportunity.”

The circus recently posted that they love animals. “Animal welfare refers to the state of the animal; the treatment that an animal receives is covered by other terms such as animal care, animal husbandry and humane treatment. “Protecting an animal's welfare means providing for its physical and mental needs. We at McLaren Circus pride ourselves on how we care for our beloved animals.” All animals in McLaren's circus are rescued, rehabilitated or were born in capitvity.

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