Dubai circus using wild animals in shows comes under fire

The Latino Circus, which features “white lions direct from Africa” is facing a public backlash

 The Latino Circus in Dubai has faced criticism over its use of animals in the production.
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A Dubai circus using wild animals in its performances has come under fire - with some critics calling for the show to be stopped.

The Latino Circus, which proudly boasts that it features "white lions direct from Africa", will be stationed at Last Exit D89 Al Khawaneej until December 21.

Both developer Meraas, which has spearheaded Dubai attractions such as La Mer, City Walk and Kite Beach, and Eventoh Em, the company running the show, have faced a barrage of criticism on their websites and social media pages from people who believe making animals perform in such shows is an act of cruelty.

But the circus manager said critics should "mind their own business", adding that anyone who eats meat had no right to be opposed to the show.

“I implore you to withdraw from hosting a circus with live animals – Dubai is far, far better than this,” wrote one person who left a negative review on the Last Exit Dubai Facebook page.

“Please do not host circuses with wild animals,” posted another.

A spokesperson for Meraas, which operates Last Exit, said the circus meets international standards for the care of animals.

“In relation to concerns raised on social media about the treatment of animals at the Latino Circus being hosted at our branch in Al Khawaneej, we assure our customers and the general public that animals are well cared for, as per the international regulatory standards set by CITES (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species on Wild Fauna and Flora),"  said the spokesperson.

Latino Circus complies with all related entities and is CITES certified, said the spokesperson.

“CITES ensures ethical trade of wild animals and follows international regulations. We are mindful of our customers’ feelings while planning our activities and welcome the community’s feedback at all times," said the Meraas spokesperson.

Eventoh EM's Facebook page also includes a number negative reviews.

“This is the 21st Century. No more circuses with wild animals,” wrote one.

Wild animals were a staple of circus shows across the world for decades, but opinion against their use has shifted markedly in recent years.

The practice is banned in more than 40 countries across the globe, though it remains legal in the United Arab Emirates.

Meraas came under heavy criticism for hosting The Latino Circus at Last Exit Al Khawaneej Dubai.
Meraas came under heavy criticism for hosting The Latino Circus at Last Exit Al Khawaneej Dubai.

Teddy Aouad, the manager of The Latino Circus, claimed many of the people who posted the negative reviews either "do not even live in the Emirates” or use fake accounts.

“We ride horses and camels since forever and I don't think horses and camels were created to be ridden. So what goes for horses and camels goes for any other animal,” he said.

“If they want to be against using animals in circuses they have to stop eating any kind of meat because I don't think the cow that goes to slaughter is happy about being the main dish on their menu.”

Mr Aouad added the circus abides by the law in every country it visits.

“And the law in all the Arab world does not ban animals in circuses, so I think those so- called activists should respect and  abide the law of the country where they are visitors and mind their own business.”

Yet the company is part of a small and shrinking number circus groups worldwide which still use live animals in their shows.

A number of countries have banned the practice, such as Mexico and Peru as well as many other European nations, including Scotland and Ireland.

Protestors against the use of animals in entertainment say the animals are confined to small cages.

“This, of course, does not allow the animals to exhibit any natural or instinctual behaviour,” said the Humane Society International Australia.

“After the show the animals are locked back in their small cages, barely able to turn around, and shipped to the next town.”

In addition, animal rights groups say they are regularly subjected to excessive and abusive methods to force them to perform tricks. And they say such shows promote inappropriate messages, teaching people, especially children, that it is acceptable to exploit animals.


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In a statement on its website regarding the use of wild animals in circuses, global animal rights organisation, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), said using wild animals in circus shows is an act of "cruelty".

"Elephants, tigers, and other animals that circuses use to entertain audiences do not stand on their heads, jump through hoops, or balance on pedestals because they want to. They perform these and other difficult tricks because they’re afraid of what will happen if they don’t," said the Peta statement.

Eventoh EM promotes the show as an opportunity to “witness the live action of man vs. lion”. There are several pictures of the lions taken from the show, including one of a circus performer looking into a lion’s mouth as he prizes the animal’s jaws apart.

The event has been the subject of discussion on other social media sites, with many encouraging others to get in touch with the companies like Meraas, to complain.

Some members of the British Mums Dubai Facebook page asked what they could do to help put a stop to the show.

“Only review and comment, spread the word etc. But at least it’s something,” wrote the original poster.

“I’ve written a review on the Last Exit Facebook page. Maybe we could all do the same?” wrote another member.

"I was also appalled to hear they would have those animals. I thought animal circuses were long gone," said a poster.

"No animal should be in captivity let alone expected to perform," said another member of the group.