Circus worker 'critical' after elephant incident


ANIMAL RIGHTS activists have warned that they expect serious injury or death to occur at circuses that use wild animals in their shows following an incident in Cork at the weekend where a circus worker was taken to hospital after one elephant charged another in a holding area.

Last night the injured man was moved to intensive care and was in a critical condition.

Earlier, before the full gravity of the injuries were known, Wayne Courtney, general manager of Courtney Brothers Circus, said the incident was a “one-in-a-million accident”.

“I was disgusted that some people protesting started clapping and cheering when the incident happened. I was sickened by the response.

“Our concern was for the man and the elephant. Some of the reporting of how the accident happened has been misinformed. It was a one-in-a-million type accident.”

John Carmody, of Ireland Animal Rights Action Network (Aran), says that, with the best intentions in the world, circus owners cannot take care of animals such as elephants at makeshift sites throughout the country.

“The elephants cannot cope. They are going wild from containment and stress. The conditions are heartbreaking. This is not just an animal rights issue. It is a public safety issue. Someone is going to get killed or be seriously injured at these types of circuses.

“We’ve now had two serious incidents occur within one week, will it take the death of a member of the public or a circus employee before this problem is taken seriously? We are calling on this circus to release these elephants into sanctuaries as a matter of urgency.”

Mr Carmody has urged the Government to introduce legislation without delay in the upcoming Animal Health and Welfare Bill to finally ban animal-act circuses in Ireland.

One hundred and fifty members of Aran staged a protest outside the circus on Saturday evening. The male circus worker was injured by an unintentional blow after one elephant charged another in a holding area shortly after 5pm on Saturday.

The circus says an incident of this type has never occurred before and an investigation has been launched.

Courtneys has previously rejected suggestions that the animals are in any way mistreated. They stress that the circus animals are housed in proper facilities – in heated tents – and fed adequately.

The incident in Blackpool on the northside of the city on Saturday came just days after another elephant escaped from the same circus.

On that occasion the elephant raced through a retail car park before charging a busy junction towards a shopping centre with its minders chasing behind. It was brought under control and returned back to the circus.