Former Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus big cat trainer Alexander Lacey is back performing in Europe following his controversial departure from the U.S. last month.
And yes, these are the same big cats we reported on during their tumultuous journey from Florida to Tennessee to board a flight to Europe resulting in one tiger known as Suzy being shot and killed in Georgia.
Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Brothers, was unaware that the tiger was missing until they had reached their destination, indicating the big cats were not checked during their journey.
Previously, Lacey toured Britain and Europe with his big cats before touring with Ringling Brothers in the U.S. before it closed down in May. In June, an application from Feld Entertainment to export eight tigers to Germany “for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species” was published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Federal Register which was open for public comment. Despite overwhelming public opposition, Feld’s application was approved by USFWS in August.
Meanwhile in Europe, Animal Defenders International (ADI) released video footage showing an archaic circus performance. Twelve of Lacey’s fourteen big cats perform in an 8-minute show which opens with the cats sitting on stools, some in a begging position. During the act, the cats jump from one stool to another and over one another, snarling and swiping at the trainer on cue. One by one they leave the ring until a lone male lion remains which Lacey plants an obligatory circus big cat kiss.
The big cats are housed in a series of cages, each with access to a small gravel exercise area that contains just a ball—the cats’ only enrichment. During ADI’s observations, the big cats remained in their cages; lions, tigers and a leopard were documented pacing back and forth. These repetitive, abnormal movements known as stereotypic behavior are commonly seen in circus animals but never in the wild.
How do these subsequent actions justify exporting the tigers to Europe “for the purpose of enhancement of the survival of the species”? We’d all like to know.