Jay Lennon and Kaira the lioness from Lennon Bros Circus are at the centre of controversy about the banning of circuses with exotic animals from setting up on public land.
Jay Lennon and Kaira the lioness from Lennon Bros Circus are at the centre of controversy about the banning of circuses with exotic animals from setting up on public land. Renee Pilcher

Roaring debate to ban circus

A LETTER to the Gympie Regional Council calling for circuses with exotic animals to be banned from the region has prompted fifth generation lion tamer Jay Lennon to speak out about his performing animals.

In Gympie for the weekend with Lennon Bros Circus, Mr Lennon asked protesters to “know their facts” before they made judgements about the way he kept his animals.

“People keep going on about how cruel (the conditions are) and how the animals are mistreated...they have the best of care and are always fed,” he said.

Former Gympie woman Arianna Salan asked Gympie Council to join the list of more than 45 councils where circuses with exotic animals were banned.

Her reason for this was her belief, backed by the Bureau of Animal Health, that the circus environment was “cruel and unnatural”.

“Wild animals used in circuses are routinely subjected to months on the road confined in small, barren cages,” Ms Salan said.

“These animals often live in filthy and dilapidated enclosures or are chained in one position for the majority of the day with no chance to move, let alone express their full range of natural behaviours or to socialise with other members of their species.”

Mr Lennon said every one of his performing lions had been bred from circus lions at his family’s big game farm in Sydney.

He said a lion’s life-span in the wild would normally be five to 10 years, but in the circus it doubled.

On the road, Mr Lennon’s lions travel in an old refrigerator truck that keeps them warm in the winter and cool in the summer. And, he said, all animals were retired back to the farm when they got old.

Ms Salon said Mr Lennon (snr) had no idea why three lions attacked their trainer in front of a packed audience of families at a Lennon Bros Circus show in Penrith in 2001. “Perhaps the lions attacked because of the cruel and unnatural conditions they are kept in their entire lives,” she said.

Ms Salan’s concerns were raised at a Council meeting where it was decided residents could choose to either support the circus or protest by simply not going.

“Council’s decision was that it would prefer economic forces to regulate whether circuses with exotic animals should continue to visit the Gympie regional area,” Gympie Mayor Ron Dyne said.

New legislation being drafted by Biosecurity Queensland is expected to further strengthen standards for keeping exhibit animals.

Gympie Times


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