Animal-rights activists protested in Parow North on Saturday April 1, where the McLaren Circus has set up shop for three weeks.
Some of the protesters have followed the circus from various locations such as Table View, Fish Hoek and Hermanus to make their opposition to the use of animals known.
The protests have been organised since 2009 by Beauty Without Cruelty (BWC), which argues that many countries and cities have banned animal circuses.
BWC’s Toni Brockhoven said circuses with animals had no educational value. “(The protests) aim to educate the public around the inherent cruelty of making animals learn and perform tricks upon command, the constant travel and inability to have anything like the normal life they should have,” Ms Brockhoven said.
Protester Megan Malan shares this sentiment, saying animals should not be in captivity. “The cages are small, and they are permanently in cages. The less people support them the less chance there is of them returning to our area,” she said.
Daniel Banfield, from Edgemead, said he was at the protest because it was the right thing to do.
“The way we treat animals is important. How are we supposed to treat each other right if we can’t treat animals right?” he said.
Lizette Johnstone, from Ruyterwacht, makes her displeasure at the circus known in every town where they set up camp. Together with her husband, they start their protest in Hermanus, and it ends in Worcester, where the circus ends its tour. “We don’t say they ill-treat the animals. But this is no life for them,” she said.
Ms Brockhoven said BWC would help find sanctuaries and fund the rehoming of circus animals, should McLaren go animal-free.
“Circus defences such as their statement that life in a sanctuary is no different to that in the circus, that a terrier in a townhouse can also be considered cruel are utterly ludicrous.
“Their argument that we aren’t opposing horse racing or dog fighting is both untrue and irrelevant, as our actions when the circus insists on coming to Cape Town have no bearing on what other issues we tackle all year round, which is all animal exploitation,” said Ms Brockhoven.
In a post on their Facebook page, Mclaren Circus accused animal rights activists of double standards, saying they support animal welfare in all their dealings.
“The circus is often a soft target for them to attack, but in return, many of them still do horse riding, or will sometime in their life require medicine that was tested on an animal. Those people, with double standards, whom speak out against the use of animals but use animals for their personal gain, should seriously be questioned,” the post read.
Circus owner David McLaren accused BWC of a hidden agenda, saying they had a different protest every year.
“How can they prove this is no life for them? What about the aquarium? Have they ever protested there?” he said.
According to Mr McLaren, lions do not need big spaces to move in because they’re not hunting.
“They sleep up to 20 hours a day,” he said.
He also dismissed BWC’s assertion that they would help rehome animals at sanctuaries, saying: “A sanctuary is a zoo. They charge an entry fee.
“Why is one form of captivity better than another form? I say put them (lions) down if they say captivity is so bad,” said Mr McLaren.