Speaking of lions . . .

circus 1

THE internet is buzzing with outrage over the circus coming to town. It’s a proper, red-blooded circus of the traditional type with lions and tigers. I’m keeping out of it because I don’t like clowns. Charlie Cairoli was okay, but that mate of his with the padded shoulders and pointy hat was as scary as hell. Let’s talk lions and tigers . . .

We are renting a house in the Andalucian countryside near the town of Orgiva. Big colourful circus posters have appeared on lampposts. Anti-circus posters have been pinned to doors and stuck in windows. Tension is as taut as a trapeze wire.

The social media site Facebook is growling with anti-circus sentiment. And I must say I agree with all of it, but having lived here less than three weeks I don’t feel sufficiently confident to get involved. Hey, shooting off at a tangent for a moment, listen to this . . .

I set up a Facebook page recently to keep in touch with family and the few friends I’ve managed to retain during my 58 years on this earth. Last night I was browsing through stuff and just happened to glance at the “People you may know” box. At the very top of my personal list is Paul Chuckle, the larger half of the Chuckle Brothers.

It turns out we have a mutual Facebook friend in the shape of my cousin, Jimmy, who worked as a stage manager at a Blackpool theatre for many years. I was so impressed that I couldn’t sleep. All I could think about was Paul Chuckle being the number one “person I may know”, and that I was only a click away from a virtual “to-me-to-you” conversation.

chuckleBack to the lions and tigers. My main difficulty with anti-circus sentiment is that while most forward-thinking people – myself included – would be happy to see an end to the ritualistic humiliation of big cats, the indignation doesn’t appear to extend to dressage, horse jumping, horseracing, greyhound racing and other forms of so-called animal entertainment.

So if coaxing a lion to jump through a hoop is wrong, what’s right about training a horse to walk sideways across an Olympic arena and fold its legs in the most unnatural of fashions while some great lump of a ruddy-cheeked fellow is sitting on its back? Or forcing a horse to gallop to exhaustion while the Queen cheers from her royal box? Do horses not qualify for respect and compassion?

But, like I say, I’m not getting involved. I hope the campaigners win a moral victory and the circus people wake up to the reality they are living in the 21st Century, not the 18th. And I hope the clowns don’t scare all the little Spanish kids.

Meanwhile, my cursor is hovering over Paul Chuckle’s “Add Friend” button. To me, to you, to me, to you, to me, to you . . .

circus 3

22 thoughts on “Speaking of lions . . .

  1. I’m totally against the animals in circuses thing, but I was brought up with horses, doing loads of show jumping etc. However, I don’t like horse racing or greyhound racing. I’m thinking now about the subtleties that make things different in my mind.
    The crowd I was involved with in the show jumping circuit, all loved their horses and ponies to bits, didn’t ill treat them and always did the best by them. For example, horses weren’t even broken in until they were 4 years old, as they aren’t fully physically developed till then. And they probably wouldn’t be competing in anything until a couple of years after that.
    My take on horse racing though, is it exists to make money, people are racing horses at 2 years old – causing untold damage on undeveloped joints and bones – and animals are bought and sold purely as commodities. The same appears to apply to greyhound racing – not to mention the appalling way many dogs are treated – or even killed – after they have finished their ‘useful’ money-providing life.
    I’m sure there will be exceptions to this – not everybody is an ogre, after all! – but I personally wouldn’t have anything to do with the horse or greyhound racing circuit. In fact, I worked in a school for many years, where every time the staff had a night out, they used to go to the restaurant at the local greyhound track. I never went with them, refusing to go on principle, but no-one else ever seemed to get what I was talking about!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Chrissie. Thanks for that. I wrote this piece because I wasn’t clear in my own mind just what was acceptable to me and what wasn’t. I am totally against the ill-treatment of animals and animals being made to perform in circuses. But where is the line drawn and why, that’s what I think I’m trying to establish?
      The circus is coming to town, yet up in the town there’s a chap who quite happily sells birds in cages – canaries and that sort of thing. So there’s a line somewhere between what is acceptable and what isn’t. I have a friend who keeps koi carp in a pond in his garden, but that doesn’t seem to upset anyone and I don’t know whether it should.
      Meanwhile, when we buy a house over here we intend to keep chickens, and they will have to be fenced in because of the foxes. I am now questioning this idea.
      All the best, Alen


  2. I like it when someone I know has a connection to someone famous; I can brag about it. (I used to work for someone who knows Simon Armitage and I worked with Factory record producer Martin Hannett’s dad Norbert…) Now I can tell people I follow someone on WordPress who is linked by a blood relation to Paul Chuckle.

    And amazingly, I was also mortally terrified by the Harlequin clown who worked with Charlie Cairoli. I don’t know what it is about that style of clown that makes them look so wrong and threatening. They must be the most sinister looking characters who ever walked the Earth. (The guitarist out of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band was another one.)

    And I’ve done a lot of dressage riding in my time. I suppose any activity in which a human being comes along and makes an animal do something is wrong, but in dressage, on the positive side, the movements actually make the horse stronger and fitter because its like a stretching exercise and big work out – and they’d only be stood in a field all day eating themselves into obesity. On the negative side, most of the movements, like piaffe and passage, were developed for the battlefield. When you see a dressage horse jump and kick out its legs, that movement was to clear away enemy soldiers surrounding it. So, in that respect dressage has a shady history of horses used in war.

    But when I was doing it, no one ever fired a cannon at me, so those days are gone.

    You’ll have to find the Cairoli clown on Facebook and ask him if he enjoyed terrifying a generation of children.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Chris. The Cairoli clown, Paul Freedman, has, alas, already departed for the big top in the sky so he is beyond questioning – except perhaps in the tent of Mystic Martha, who can talk to anyone and probably speaks to Jake Thackray on a regular basis.
      I’ve never had a conversation with anyone who is an expert on dressage, so you have opened my eyes to an unknown world. I suppose, in a way, dressage is related to darts, because that fine sport is said to derive from archers messing around during their leisure periods and improving their aim at the same time. Hence the well-known term “good arrers” after a particularly fine set of shots.
      And now I’m going to impress you no end. Firstly, I met the Chuckle Brothers when they were invited to guest-edit The Northern Echo for a day when they were playing Darlington Civic Theatre. Secondly, I’ve also been introduced to Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury. He guest-edited the Echo when he was Bishop of Durham, and again when he was Archbishop of Canterbury Elect. And I can tell you this, there is nothing more stressful than trying to edit the page of a newspaper when the Archbishop of Canterbury is standing behind you watching your computer screen and pointing out mistakes made by your fumbling fingers. It’s enough to make a bloke take up dressage.
      Cheers, Alen

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I am humbled to be in contact with you, especially with your connections to men of god. (You never know when you might need a favour.)

        Didn’t know that about the darts. I’ve often wondered where the ‘step up to the ocky [sp]’ term came from, if that has any ancient meaning as well?

        And dressage, like a lot of horseriding is rooted in military practice. One reason a chap always gets on a horse on the left hand side is so that his sword doesn’t get tangled up in the saddle straps!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Chris, I haven’t a clue where the ocky term comes from, but thanks for the advice about mounting a horse. Just recently, I’ve toyed with the notion of buying a mule to get around the mountain paths, so your information will put me in good stead if I hang my walking poles from my belt. Having said that, I can’t really buy a mule after writing what I’ve just written.
          I read somewhere once that William the Conqueror used to vault on his horse from behind, and it was a kick he received doing this that led to his death. It’s probably not true but it’s one of those things that makes for interesting conversation.
          Cheers, Alen. And Justin sends his regards.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Alen, Step away from Facebook right now! 🙂 Too much of it will mess with your brain! I am with you on the circus front. I don’t like them, and I’ve never been keen on zoos either although of course they do a lot of good conservation work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jo. I’ve learnt to keep Facebook at arm’s length. I realised on the very first day that it wasn’t for me. I can only liken the experience to sticking your head round a door to see what the commotion is in the next room, and being dragged into a mad and noisy world from which there is no respite.
      Yes, zoos as well. I don’t like them, though I appreciate there are arguments for breeding and conservation.
      Anyway, no more Facebook. Except in an emergency.
      All the best, Alen

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m against wild animals being kept in confined situations. Horses and dogs aren’t wild animals. I’m also against things being trained to do things which scare them and which they wouldn’t do naturally, e.g. big cats jumping through fire hoops etc. These are trained with cruelty in order to make them do those things.

    I’m also against things like horse and greyhound racing because of the way the animals are treated when they can’t perform any more.

    Having said that, I can’t see a problem with dressage or show jumping as both are things the horse naturally does. You think those movements in dressage are unnatural? They’re not – if you watch horses together in the fields, they do all those movements themselves. And some horses (not all, mind) love to jump. A horse, left in the field to graze all day suffers from two main things – boredom (so we ride them) and laminitis (so they need taking away from grazing and exercising). We don’t have huge plains for horses to run around on so, if we’re going to have them, we have to take them out and exercise them one way or another.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Carol. I thought you might have an opinion on this one. Yes, I agree with most of the things you say, and most of the things the others are saying. I suppose I’m playing devil’s advocate in this, coming from a neutral standpoint, and asking: if the training of big cats is abhorrent, then why isn’t the training of other animals?
      Horses and dogs were wild once. They are only part of our lives now because we humans domesticated them and bent them to our will. So should we be looking beyond the lions and tigers issue to the bigger picture?
      Where is the line between the acceptable and the not acceptable? Lions jumping through fiery hoops – we don’t want that. But what about dolphins performing for the holiday crowds? Why is it bad for lions but fine for dolphins . . . and fine for seals and penguins?
      Cheers, Alen


      1. I don’t think it’s fine for dolphins either. Nor am I keen on zoos really. It’s true that our pets were wild once and we domesticated them – I think they mostly have an easier life because of that – small animals anyway. But as to the justification for it – not sure. I think cats probably adopted humans, much as they do now. Dogs may well have too. But I’m sure rabbits, mice and guinea pigs never did.

        Like you say, it’s a big debate!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I have never liked circus either. It is many years since we had tigers and lions to roam between the white clown and those with noses out … but we have elephants in the circus in Denmark.
    It went wrong the other day. The elephants were moving from point A to B among a large spectator quantity and honking cars.
    There went their threshold of pain. One became angry pushing and stomping on a big Skoda. No people inside!
    It was only right and proper. Now there are a lot of fuss of the unfairness that wild animals are trained. You can probably find the elephants on Facebook created under their own circus group.
    Wish you a happy evening with og without circus 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Hanna. Yes, elephants should not be used in this way, purely for entertainment and as a source of amusement. It is wrong. I think they have been banned in Britain, but I’m not sure about that. Camels are another animal which are paraded around for our so-called amusement.
      Regards, Alen

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The white-faced clown is picked out as being the one to be afraid of and not to be laughed at in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books (mostly in ‘Men at Arms’) so it seems this is a universal experience.


    1. Thanks for that information, Martin. Strange that a figure of fun should also be one of fear. My son has always been scared of clowns, and he’s 31.
      Cheers, Alen


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