Some people start their New Year fighting back tears, drunk-dialling their exes to beg for one more chance. Others declare impossible promises of behavioural change. And some start their year with Facebook posts from their official company page, as the artistic of Circus Oz, Rob Tannion did. He made his New Year’s declaration in support of the use of domestic and exotic animals in circus acts.
This is despite the fact that Circus Oz has always marketed itself as animal free. The company website says it has “an ethos of tolerance, diversity and human kindness… issues associated with social justice and a good time for all”.
Recently, the company has been admirably described in various media as ‘The Cruelty Free Circus’ as publicity ramped up for the opening of its new show Model Citizen opened at the Sydney Festival last night, coinciding with the company’s 40 year anniversary.
You might think a company now widely regarded as ‘Cruelty Free’ would be happy to own the label.
However, Tannion posted on his Facebook last week:
“I would like to clearly articulate that Circus Oz supports all sectors of our circus industry. Over the 40 years of Circus Oz we have chosen to celebrate the spirit of humanity and the potential of the human body to entertain our audiences. We are one of the many diverse forms of circus that exists today, some of which incorporate animals into their shows. All circus is equally vital and valid, and ultimately the use of animals on stage comes down to the artistic choice of each company.
Sadly some mainstream films and media choose to focus on the negative representation of some elements of past practices with regards to animal care, treatment and welfare – without taking the time to look into animal care practices currently employed. There are extremely high ethical codes of care and practice endorsed by this sector of Australian circus.
Too often we see sensationalised headlines when talking about circus and animals, which may carry damaging, negative assumptions and repercussions. Although no longer reflective of current practices, these old and tired assumptions are easy to keep reinforcing. These are not views supported by Circus Oz.
The current diversity of contemporary circus owes so much to our classical, traveling and family run circus. Much of what we do today technically and artistically has been developed, tried and tested beneath their tent canvasses.
Let’s start talking about circus as a genre and an art form in the 21st century, and not keep drawing on tired assumptions of the past. At the heart of everything, we are all circus.”
In response, hundreds of comments have been posted on the Circus Oz Facebook page. There has been a wave of responses on both social and traditional media varying in support or protest about the use of animals in live performances. Audience members, animal rights activists, keyboard warriors, circus workers have all spoken up.
Link to Full Article at the Daily Review.