Published on January 3rd, 2012 | by Matthew Mamo16
Circo Orfei Agent: “How can an animal trust you when you hurt it?”
Following the arrival of Circo Orfei, the Animal Rights Coalition reiterated its call to ban animal circus from Malta. InsiterOnline’s Matthew Mamo dropped by the Floriana Circus to get an inside look at the conditions under the tent.
On a cold Thursday night, a few minutes before one of Circus Orfei’s daily shows, I met with Silvio Zammit who, along with Johan Said, heads JS Productions; a company that brings to Malta various circus companies. Silvio Zammit tells me that Johan Said’s family has been bringing circuses to Malta for over 50 years, “it’s his passion”.
“This circus is the story of the Orfei family who decided to leave their homes and travel around the world in caravans”, Silvio Zammit tells me as we wander around the tents and caravans parked on the Granaries, Floriana. “The animals are Massimo Orfei’s part of the family, he loves them as much as we love cats and dogs as pets in our homes.”
He looks at me and asks if I have ever visited a zoo or safari abroad. “You and I have visited other countries and been to safaris and zoos. But not everyone can afford to. Where would a family with kids be able to see the variety of animals we have here [Scottish bulls, goats, an elephant, lions, camels, horses, donkeys, a panda cub, a giraffe, and a monkey amongst others] with a price as low as 5 Euros?”
When I mentioned the Animal Rights Coalition’s calls to ban animal circuses in Malta and appeals to stop the “animal abuse”, Silvio replies that “it is true that animal abuse cases in circuses is a reality, but this does not mean that all circuses hurt their animals. How can an animal trust you when you hurt it? Do you think that these people will hurt the animals that provide the daily living of the 40-50 people who work in this circus? We make sure that the circuses we bring to Malta have all the necessary certifications and that they abide by EU Regulations.”
He goes on to explain that animal right groups were invited to check the animal conditions by themselves. “ Animals in this circus are not trained through punishment but lured with food. You will see this during the show, none of the animals are hurt and when they finish the performance, they are gifted with food. I find it more of an abuse to genetically modify a breed of dog and create the sausage dog to make it easier for humans to hunt animals.”
As we enter the tent where an elephant is held, Silvio calls ‘Baby’ and the elephant comes near us and appreciates the cuddling. “I only met this elephant some weeks ago when the circus arrived in Malta,” claims Silvio Zammit, “do you think that this elephant will respond to me calling his name and be so friendly if it was beaten?”
Silvio touches 3 lines of wire around the area reserved for ‘Baby’ and invites me to touch it myself. “Do you think that 3 pieces of wire will restrict an elephant this size from bringing this tent down if he is beaten or unhappy? Yet they still don’t use barbed wire.”
Whilst we are leaving the tent, one of the animal attendants enters and gives ‘Baby’ a pipe for him to play with the water and drink as he is prepared and cleaned for the show. Silvio points towards a monkey at one corner of the tent and asks the circus member why it is there. The circus member looks at a heater and tells us that she likes the heat inside the tent more than the freezing temperature outside!
Heading towards the lions’ cages, we pass by the camels being cleaned by a member of the Orfei Circus as they eat from a bin full of food. “The animals were all born in the family, they are cleaned before every show and have everything they wish. They are fed high quality food.”
As we reach the lions’ cage, Silvio tells me that one of the lions fell sick. “One of the lions was withdrawn from the shows as it fell sick. A vet is taking good care of it, just like a doctor would take care of a sick person.” He also notes that the cage is by the road, for everyone to see; “many people stop by to take pictures daily. I suggested that the animal tents are open all day so people can come and visit at a small fee. The Orfei family would have gained a lot of money but they refused as it would not be easy for the animals.”
“Animal rights groups uploaded a video which they claim show animals in this circus acting insane, they show two lions playing with each other and making out. You think that if they were sad they would be playing with each other? Do you think that a sad and mistreated panda would have cubs? I told none of these animals that you were coming, they are acting their normal way!”
Walking back to the main tent as the show is starting, Silvio tells me that animals such as the lions and the panda are in brink of extinction, “in circuses they have all they need. They are reproducing and their numbers are increasing.”
The tent is packed with children and a group of less able people from ‘Id-Dar tal-Providenza’; “Name any institution that helps people in need, whether drug addicts, disabled people or any other category, these people are allowed free entrance to the shows. They enjoy these shows and we are glad to help them out in this way.”