Circus to come to Harrogate despite animal cruelty concerns

Updated 29 March 2011 at 13:10

The Yorkshire Agricultural Society has taken the decision to cancel this event now.

Please see the related news item

Elephant Cruelty

The Yorkshire Event Centre at the Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate has sparked controversy after agreeing to host the Bobby Roberts Super Circus between April 21st-25th

The Bobby Roberts Super Circus hit international headlines this weekend after secret undercover video film was released showing animal trainers repeatedly beating and stabbing an elderly arthritic Elephant with a pitchfork. Another scene in the video shows another worker punching a Pony in the face.

The Police have launched an investigation.

Jim Marshall, a Harrogate resident who has seen the footage on-line, said “I am utterly sickened by the pure cruelty that has taken place, and I am dismayed that the Yorkshire Event Centre has agreed to host this show whilst there is an ongoing Police investigation into the cruelty”.

The show at Harrogate has triggered calls for a mass national protest outside the Yorkshire Event Centre whilst the show is being performed there and calls for businesses to boycott the showground. The protests are being organised via the Social Networking site, Facebook, and up to 500-1000 people are expected to attend the demonstrations.

The Yorkshire Event Centre has been approached for comment and we believe the matter is being discussed internally before formal comment is made. It is our intention to publish fully any statements received.

The Bobby Roberts family have issued the following statement:-

The Bobby Roberts family have viewed the footage taken by Animal Defenders at their premises and share the outrage at what appears to have taken place in their absence. The camera was in place for nearly three weeks and the incidents recorded appear to be isolated and at times when Bobby Roberts was away for short periods. The film shows an employee hitting our elephant Anne with the back of a pitchfork in order to make her move to one side while her stabling was being cleaned out. This is not acceptable nor is it necessary. Anne has been with us for 55 years, not just as a performing animal but as a family pet. She has been trained through kindness and reward to willingly obey gentle, spoken commands. She is now an elderly lady and the incidents appear to have been driven by a lack of patience in our employee.

We believe the film was taken on the occasional days that Bobby Roberts was absent from our farm and the employee was left on his own. The actions of the employee, had they been known, would not have been tolerated and had they taken place in Bobby Roberts’ presence they would have led to an instant dismissal.

Bobby Roberts has had an unblemished career as a respected animal trainer for over fifty years. The film does not suggest that he was involved in any of theses incidents or that they took place in his presence. He is deeply saddened that Anne, for whom he has deep affection, and who clearly loves Bobby, should have, in any way suffered. Bobby was completely unaware of what was happening and had the employee not disappeared he would have been sacked immediately.

Whilst we are grateful to Animal Defenders for bringing to our attention the completely unacceptable behaviour of our employee, we are strongly critical of the fact that it has taken them several weeks to report the matter and did not, in the interests of animal welfare, take immediate steps to inform us of the problem.

The Bobby Roberts Family.