Elephants performing during Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus show in 2016, shortly before curtains came down on the company. Andrew Kelly / Reuters
Elephants performing during Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus show in 2016, shortly before curtains came down on the company. Andrew Kelly / Reuters

Wild animals on show are far from entertaining

Less than a generation ago, few parents anywhere in the world would have thought twice about taking their children to the big top when the circus came to town. Families once thrilled at the sight of lions, tigers and elephants performing extraordinary feats and bending to the will of a human tamer. Today, however, the thought of wild animals being exploited for our entertainment is, for many people,  abhorrent. In an era in which human beings are increasingly conscious of their individual impact upon, and responsibilities towards, the planet and their fellow creatures, the outpouring of disquiet over the use of lions in a circus performing in Dubai is both welcome and inevitable.

The circus has vigorously defended its use of lions, suggesting that protesters should "mind their own business". At best, this is a naive response from an organisation on the wrong side of history, defending an increasingly indefensible position. In the modern world, animal welfare is very much everyone's business. Empty seats and people voting with their feet by staying away will make their own incontestable case. In the US last year, falling ticket sales and protests from animal rights groups forced Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus out of business after 146 years.

Although the use of animals in circuses is still legally permitted in the majority of countries around the world, the determination of the UAE government to crack down on the illegal ownership of exotic pets shows that animal welfare is very much on the radar in the UAE. But with or without legislation, there is now widespread recognition globally that wild animals belong in only one place – the wild. One of the UAE's largest ticket-selling platforms is to be lauded for taking a moral stance in the debate over the Latino Circus's use of white African lions in its show. It has condemned the use of animals as unethical and is considering cutting ties with the circus.

Circuses have shown they can thrive without animals, relying instead on astonishing displays of skill by human dancers, acrobats and jugglers. Cirque du Soleil is today the largest theatrical company in the world but does not feature animals. Times and attitudes change. The objections in the UAE acknowledge that forcing wild animals to perform for our amusement is a cruel anachronism that demeans them and diminishes our humanity.

The schedule

December 5 - 23: Shooting competition, Al Dhafra Shooting Club

December 9 - 24: Handicrafts competition, from 4pm until 10pm, Heritage Souq

December 11 - 20: Dates competition, from 4pm

December 12 - 20: Sour milk competition

December 13: Falcon beauty competition

December 14 and 20: Saluki races

December 15: Arabian horse races, from 4pm

December 16 - 19: Falconry competition

December 18: Camel milk competition, from 7.30 - 9.30 am

December 20 and 21: Sheep beauty competition, from 10am

December 22: The best herd of 30 camels

Green ambitions
  • Trees: 1,500 to be planted, replacing 300 felled ones, with veteran oaks protected
  • Lake: Brown's centrepiece to be cleaned of silt that makes it as shallow as 2.5cm
  • Biodiversity: Bat cave to be added and habitats designed for kingfishers and little grebes
  • Flood risk: Longer grass, deeper lake, restored ponds and absorbent paths all meant to siphon off water 
The specs

Engine: Turbocharged four-cylinder 2.7-litre

Power: 325hp

Torque: 500Nm

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Price: From Dh189,700

On sale: now

Top Hundred overseas picks

London Spirit: Kieron Pollard, Riley Meredith

Welsh Fire: Adam Zampa, David Miller, Naseem Shah

Manchester Originals: Andre Russell, Wanindu Hasaranga, Sean Abbott

Northern Superchargers: Dwayne Bravo, Wahab Riaz

Oval Invincibles: Sunil Narine, Rilee Rossouw

Trent Rockets: Colin Munro

Birmingham Phoenix: Matthew Wade, Kane Richardson

Southern Brave: Quinton de Kock

Company Profile

Company name: myZoi
Started: 2021
Founders: Syed Ali, Christian Buchholz, Shanawaz Rouf, Arsalan Siddiqui, Nabid Hassan
Based: UAE
Number of staff: 37
Investment: Initial undisclosed funding from SC Ventures; second round of funding totalling $14 million from a consortium of SBI, a Japanese VC firm, and SC Venture


Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

Company profile

Company name: Suraasa

Started: 2018

Founders: Rishabh Khanna, Ankit Khanna and Sahil Makker

Based: India, UAE and the UK

Industry: EdTech

Initial investment: More than $200,000 in seed funding

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