Life’s tough at the big top

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BOBBY ROBERTS’ Super Circus, the show currently touring in Whitby and at the centre of an animal welfare scandal, spoke to the Gazette on Wednesday with the message: “We have done nothing wrong”.

An investigation by campaigners Animal Defenders International (ADI) uncovered the poor treatment of an elephant named Anne, who was repeatedly beaten and has subsequently been rehomed at Longleat Safari Park.

Moira Roberts, wife of circus owner Bobby, attributes the violence to a single employee and said: “Bobby Roberts has been a family circus since 1944.

“Since 1944 we have had a clean record, but unfortunately we had a groom who was with us for four months.

“He always showed kindness to our animals and I don’t know whether he went insane but he disappeared off the face of the earth before the police had chance to contact him.

“We are in the process of rebuilding our name, which won’t be easy, but we are not going to change it.

“We have done nothing wrong other than hire a cruel person.”

The case against Bobby Roberts, who has performed in front of the Queen, was widely publicised in the national press and it seems Whitby people are reluctant to forgive and forget.

A Gazette source, who wishes to remain unnamed, said that she and other residents have been boycotting the circus by removing any posters they find.

She added: “There’s a lot of ill-feeling, a shopkeeper I know took their posters down and threw the tickets away.

“The abuse should never have taken place, no animal should ever be treated badly.

“I don’t believe the owner didn’t know it was going on and I don’t know why they don’t shut them down.

“How much of this is going on that we don’t know about?”

ADI claim that a camera at the Bobby Roberts circus’ winter accomodation over a three and a half week period showed the severely arthritic 57-year-old elephant being hit with a pitchfork and kicked around the face and body 48 times.

Other animals such as a camel, miniature ponies and horses were reportedly also observed being subject to physical abuse.

Jan Creamer, chief executive of ADI said: “We are overjoyed that Anne is now in a place of safety.

“The public outpouring of sympathy after ADI filmed this lovely old elephant chained up, beaten, kicked and jabbed with a pitchfork, has saved her.

“This is a wonderful day and it is also time to say ‘never again’ and end the use of wild animals in circuses.”

Mrs Roberts, who has been married to husband Bobby for 45 years, added: “We have been subject to the most horrible threats from activists.

“Anne was our elephant and we had her here for 55 years, she is the oldest elephant in Europe so we must have done something right.

“Bobby had the elephant longer than he’s had me.

“We haven’t got wild animals, we only have domesticated animals and we are proud of them.

“Our doors are open to any welfare organisation who wants to visit them.”

A statement on Bobby Roberts Super Circus’ website added: “We have made it clear that we do not condone any mistreatment of animals and will not tolerate it in our circus.

“We acknowledge that we have a responsibility and deeply regret what now appears to be an error of judgement in choosing a particular member of staff.

“We believe that our audiences and also our friends will continue to support us in the knowledge of how much we care for our animals.”

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