Network for Animals has welcomed the decision by Marius Fransman, the leader of the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa’s Western Cape province to publicly condemn the use of wild animals in South African circuses.

Yesterday Fransman weighed in about the growing controversy surrounding animal cruelty in circuses saying:  “One of South Africa’s great tourist attractions is our wildlife; we want the image of our country to be of wild animals in their natural habitat, not kept in small cages and dragged around the country performing circus tricks.”

He called for stronger legislation to protect animals.

“Wild animals such as lions have no place in a circus because it has been conclusively proved that the practice is inherently cruel,” said Brian Davies, NFA’s founder and one of the world’s most distinguished animal welfare experts.

“There is so often a track record of abuse wherever there are circuses that use wild animals. Cruelty is built into the process,” he said.  “It is a shameful and outmoded practice that is illegal in many countries.  We welcome any move the ANC makes to outlaw the use of wildlife in circuses.

“South Africa is widely regarded as being a leader of wildlife protection in Africa, banning the use of lions and other wild animals in circuses would enhance that image.”

Only two circuses in South Africa continue to use wild animals in circus acts and both are under intense scrutiny.  In recent weeks, criminal charges have been laid against Brian Boswell’s circus after employees were secretly filmed abusing the show’s elephants and McClaren’s circus is bracing itself for a protest rally in Cape Town this Saturday, 27th April, at the venue where the circus is set to perform.

Capetonian Nikki Elliot whose “No to Animals in Circuses” network, is organising the protest, said the images of keepers sadistically beating elephants was the last straw for many people.

“The video of shocking cruelty was shown on prime time television and caused nationwide outrage,” she said.  “It has also attracted the attention of the international community on South Africa, with influential animal organisations like NFA now focusing on the issue.”