CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Heath managers book animal-free circus a year on from acrobatic cats protest

Moscow State Circus booked as Zippos' 30-year big tent run on Hampstead Heath comes to an end

31 August, 2017 — By Tom Foot

Performing cats at Zippos

PROTESTERS who picketed a circus which featured performing cats have claimed victory after learning it will not return to Hampstead Heath this year.

The Heath Constabulary reported “periods of sustained hostility and abuse” from activists demonstrating at Zippos circus last October. A circus which does not use animals has been booked for this autumn instead.

The City of London, which runs the Heath, has hired Moscow State Circus for its annual spectacular on the East Heath fairground site, its first break from using Zippos in 30 years.

Ed Winters, who organised the protest last year, told the New Journal: “It’s fantastic to hear that Zippos Circus is no longer welcome at Hampstead Heath and illustrates perfectly how societal attitudes towards the exploitation of animals are continuing to change. We hope that other areas in London and across the UK that still allow Zippos Circus to perform take notice and begin only allowing animal-free circuses to operate. It’s time for Zippos Circus and other companies that still exploit animals to understand that animals are here with us, not for us.”

The wife of Martin “Mr Zippo” Burton, Julia Knight, has defended its acts, saying the company “robustly denies” any cruelty to animals, adding that “with the right animal husbandry there is a place for domestic animals in the circus”.

Police tackled protesters with placards who met audiences leaving Zippos show – which included “flying cats” – last year.

Demonstrators left chalk messages on the ground outside the circus, with staff trying to wash them away with brooms and a bucket of water before Hampstead Heath Constabulary and Camden police intervened. More than 8,500 people signed an online petition calling for the animals to be removed from the show.

The RSPCA this week called for an “outright ban” on animals in circuses. Zippos, currently running a circus in Hove, declined to comment this week.

Moscow State Circus director John Haze said: “We don’t use animals at all, in any of our shows. We choose not to because at the end of the day you have to go to the best sites, and people’s perception of animals in circuses is that it’s cruel. “It’s a commercial decision. We decided not ever to use animals because we wouldn’t get the right sites.”

But he added: “I look at animals at London Zoo. There is a massive park next to it. Why not let giraffes wander around the park? Why on earth is it ok to have them in the concrete like that? Because it’s a zoo, because it’s not a circus – it’s ok. It’s the hypocrisy I don’t like.”

The Constabulary’s report to City of London said repeated visits from animal rights activists had seen “periods of sustained hostility, provocation and abuse” towards officers. “It is to the credit of the team that no serious incidents took place,” it added.

A spokesman for the City of London Corporation said: “Zippos Circus has decided to move on to a new venue. As a result, the Moscow State Circus will appear on the Heath in its place towards the end of September.”

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