Duffy’s Circus keeping animals in ‘unsuitable environment’ – ISPCA

Ziggy the sea lion from Tom Duffy's Circus.

Ziggy the sea lion from Tom Duffy’s Circus.

THE Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) this week claimed that one of Ireland leading circus companies kept animals in an “unsuitable environment.”

The Chief Executive of the ISPCA, Dr Andrew Kelly, was reacting to comments made two weeks ago in the Donegal News by Mr David Duffy, Managing Director and Ringmaster of Duffy’s Circus.


In that article, Mr Duffy had rejected what he claimed was ‘unfounded’ criticism of them in relation to the welfare of their performing wild animals.

He was speaking after the animal rights group, ARAN, called on members of the public to boycott their recent Letterkenny shows.

Mr Duffy claimed that the ISPCA has found no evidence of animal mistreatment, abuse or suffering, and would have prosecuted them if there was any evidence.

However, Dr Kelly contacted us to say that their inspectors have not visited Duffy’s Circus in several years, and on all previous visits, made it clear that the animals were being kept in an unsuitable environment.

“Unfortunately, legislation did not allow ISPCA Inspectors to take any action. Our Inspectors no longer visit circuses as there is nothing they can do, regardless of the conditions the animals are kept in,” Dr Kelly said.

“The ISPCA is strongly opposed to the use of wild animals in circuses on animal welfare and ethical grounds and is calling for a complete ban. It is extremely difficult to gather evidence in relation to the welfare of wild animals in circuses due to the limited access allowed to the animals. However, lack of evidence of poor welfare is not evidence of good welfare.”

He pointed to a study in 2009 by Professor Stephen Harris and colleagues at Bristol University who investigated circus animal welfare, particularly in relation to behaviour, health, living and travelling conditions.


They found that the circus animals spent the majority of the day confined, in many cases chained or manacled, with less than 10 per cent of the day spent performing.

Dr Kelly said that, between April 17 and May 15, Duffy’s Circus will have travelled to ten venues covering over 430 km, spending an average of three days at each venue, with an average of six shows at each venue.

“The associated movement, human handling, noise, trailer movement and confinement in beast wagons for long periods are well known stressors in animals.
“The ISPCA will continue to work with other like-minded organisations opposing the use of wild animals in circuses until such times as the government sees the writing on the wall and introduces a ban. Wild animals are not clowns,” he concluded.

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