Circus to come to Harrogate despite animal cruelty concerns

28 March 2011

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.





  1. Hang your heads in shame…how can you even consider this after the widespread outrage against the abuse of this beautiful & majestic elephant? Using animals in circus tricks is outdated, cruel & barbaric. I urge people to make their voices heard for this voiceless animal & let the organisers of this hateful circus know that this sort of cruel behaviour will not be tolerated!

  2. Please reconsider hosting this circus – until bookings are cancelled they will continue to use animals for entertainment. Anne the elephant and several other of their animals have been filmed being abused. Abuse has been seen by witnesses for many years prior to this film being released…it is not a one-off!

    What is passing for entertainment is wrong – morally wrong. A hundred years ago circuses exhibited Siamese Twins, people who had disfigurements…it was wrong. Abusing animals’ dignity is wrong. And what is even more wrong is abusing those animals behind the scenes.

    This circus had 3 elephants until a few years ago – their deaths have never been fully explained – to my knowledge.

  3. The training and performing of wild animals in circuses is a medieval practice that is going to be banned in England and Wales. Traveling circuses were never good for the animals only good to make money for their promoters!! They have never been proven to be educational or entertaining! A beautiful lion should never be forced jump through a hoop of fire nor should an elephant be whipped to sit up and beg like a dog! Bobby Roberts Super circus represents everything ugly about circuses and abuse to animals. This horrible practice must end!

  4. Using animals in circuses is extremely cruel and outdated This majestic elephant was taken from the wild at just 5 years old and has spent the last 45 years in trucks and shackles How can that be anything but torture never mind adding the beatings and STABBINGS!!! she has had.
    They keep her shackled while she is beaten like true cowards and they refuse to let a sanctuary take her why? and why are thye allowed to make that choice surely with the video and photographic evidence she should eb removed forcibly. Where are the RSPCA? Why does this magnificant creature get no help or protection?
    Please people of Harrogate make this circus pay for the cruelty and do not hand over your hard earned cash to thes scum abusers.

  5. How on earth can Harrogate possibly even consider having this circus, anywhere near your town, after all of the outrage and bad publicity. I and thousands of others urge you to reconsider having this circus come to your town. Do not condone animal cruelty and ignore thousands of MP’s & Public voices. Be one of the 1st towns to stand up and be heard. You too as a town can make a stand and stand out, be different say “NO to animal cruelty & No to Bobby Roberts Cruel Circus” Make Britain proud with a resounding “NO”! Animals cannot speak for themselves. Please help them.


  6. I am appalled that you could even consider hosting this disgusting circus. The footage of Anne being abused is horrific and the fact that you are allowing this despicable outfit to come to Harrogate makes you complicit in her torture. Shame on whoever made this decision.

  7. I dont know whats left to say… BAN BAN BAN !!! Or give your money and childrens time to sadists.. YOUR CHOICE

  8. Please do the right thing and retire Anne to a sanctuary. This type of treatment is despicable and the offender deserves jail time

  9. it is terrible that in this day and age this kind of animal abuse still goes on….I hope the Harrogate council know this is not the kind of publicity there town needs…poor Anne…shame on anyone who attends

  10. I totally agree with Emma’s post. Once proud Harrogate must hang it’s head in shame if it allows this abuse to continue and it will as long as you allow the circus into your city.

  11. Please reconsider allowing any circus to perform in your area, that still uses any animal acts. They are cruel and uneccessary. There is no place for this in a modern society, we banned so many other cruel things it’s time this was banned too.

  12. I believe it to be a very unwise move to be hosting Bobby Roberts’ Circus after the recent publicity. Instead, the Council should be seen to be supporting a cruelty-free alternative. I won’t be visiting Harrogate any time soon, if its reaction to unsavoury behaviour is to support the perpetrator.

  13. The Event Centre is a subsidiary of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society rather than the Borough Council.

  14. The Yorkshire Agricultural Society (or whichever organisation is running the event) has strong and valid grounds to withdraw from any contract to host this ‘circus’. I would urge them to do so.

  15. Disgraceful. This must not be tolerated. The animals must be freed from this hideous place and hideous people. This is the UK- we are better than this. Free these animals at once and let them live out the rest of their lives in peace with people who will care for them.

  16. Even putting the physical abuse aside, Bobby Roberts is still placing Anne in a place where she is unable to walk around and is chained in place. That is abuse, as well and it is sanctioned by Bobby Roberts.

  17. I am Utterly Disgusted that Harrogate Council are considering letting this ‘Circus Come To Town’ considering the Current Cruelty Issues Surrounding The Bobby Roberts Circus. I used to live in Yorkshire & always recommended Harrogate as a place to visit as it was Stylish & Classy & A Very Pretty Town that Clearly Takes Pride In Itself….. Not Anymore It Would Seem.

    I am deeply distressed like many at the footage of how this ‘Animal Loving Family’ treat their Circus Animals….. I urge The People Of Harrogate to stand up against this circus coming to their town….. We have the power to stop this forever, it’s just so wrong. ‘An Elephant kept this way for over 50 Yrs’….. We can’t allow this to continue…. AS LONG AS THEIR IS A DEMAND FOR THIS BY PEOPLE ATTENDING IT WILL CONTINUE…..SO DON’T & STOP IT !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. They may have given the statement out but i am sorry it does not wash with me, they knew nothing about it so who was the Chap in the Suit… and it is clear that he was NOT on his own so WHY did the others not stop him or speak up for the defenceless animal…. I think the Circus should be cancelled upon the evidence that is so clear for all to see. Anne should be taken from them IMMEDIETLY and placed into a sanctuary where she will be loved and cared for in the manner she deserves, This secret filming is enough to charge them with Animal Cruelty …..
    in 2007, the Animal Welfare Act became law in England, shortly after it was implemented in Wales. Described as the single most important piece of animal welfare legislation for nearly 100 years, the Act places a legal obligation on owners and keepers of animals to care for them properly. ARREST HIM JAIL HIM……..

  19. How any organisation can consider accepting a circus who uses animals in this day and age is beyond me, and when you see this cruelty to such a wonderful animal – you should be ashamed of yourselves

  20. This is absolutely disgusting, even if his lame excuse for the beatings has any form of standing which it clearly doesnt, he has failed to bring up the point of explaining the 6 inch chains holding her feet. This is an absolute disgrace, and just goes to show what the local councils will do in order to bring in a few extra quid…. now that it has been exposed on facebook, if it is allowed to go ahead their will undoubtedly be some sort of protest group that will stop it by any means. If this abortion of a show does go ahead, i will be there for the opening day and i will be joining in the fight to save all the animals from the barbarians that are the roberts family and north yorkshire county council…..

  21. Barbaric…shouldn’t be allowed to have an elephant or indeed ANY living animals within a circus at all, and more especially when this individual is obviously so cruel to the magnificent beast. Why aren’t the RSPCA stepping in and prosecuting this excuse for a human being? WHY aren’t the local council stopping this cruel show from going ahead in the first place? WHY do people even WANT to see such horrible cruelty first hand?….so many questions and sadly NOT enough positive answers!

    I hope the caring public turn out in their droves to stop this show from going ahead!

  22. so sad to read about the cruel conditions this dear old elephant has had to endure , heres hoping she won,t be subjected to any more suffering now this has been drawn to everyones attention. am sure the circus owner would not have in any wayallowed the way this animal was treated and would take severe actoins against persons involved.

  23. to be fair I feel sorry for the circus owner. He’s loved that Elephant as part of his family. The only workers a circus can get are often not the best. That groom was paid to look after that animal but instead treated her like this. If it were my elephant I would have been gutted! Too many people assume that circus owner just callously condone this sort of cruelty. Any animal trainer would tell you this sort of treatment is just loading a gun with any animal. Cat dog elephant horse and raising the potential for one day that animal to snap. No animal trainer, no matter how bad would treat their animals this way. I can show videos equally appalling of how some dogs were treated in kennels. But you wouldn’t blame their owners!

  24. I feel it is totaly unacceptable to blame the Roberts family.
    500 hours of footage has been captured and not once does it feature the roberts family witnessing abuse or abusing animals.
    It seems that many groups are using this as a tool to fight their cause (to ban animal circuses) and very few people seem even remotely interested in catching the horrible man who commited this crime.
    The rights and wrongs of performing animals aside Anne the Elephant, has confirmed in the daily mail, has already lived 17 years longer then most Elephant in captivity,including zoo’s. This is hardly the sign of a animal that has lived a awful life as some make out. Alot of people need to put more thought and attention to man who did this and bring him to justice rather then making appaling comments, citing hatred and making remarks which are only slander without evidence against the people who were clearly not involved.

  25. I wounder what people can do this to a poor defensless animal!! I hope they get what they deserve!! This is unacceptable!!!!!!!

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