Circus slammed as elephants, tigers and other animals are forced to travel 10,000 miles in cramped trucks
The Togni circus, which moved to Russia after Italy banned animals from shows, has reportedly been on road for nearly 10 months
Animal rights activists have launched a petition against the "cruelty" of a circus that forces animals to travel 10,000 miles across Siberia to perform in traveling shows.
The activists have slammed the "tortuous" journey in which elephants, tigers, and other animals are often transported across Russia in cramped lorries. The petition against the practice has gathered nearly 100,000 supporters.
Despite public outrage, ringmasters at Togni circus have defended the atrocity, claiming that animals "love the circus" and insist that the animal, during their journey, are taken care of as the trucks are heated and the elephants are regularly fed and cleaned.
The circus, which moved to Russia after Italy banned animals from shows, has reportedly been on road for nearly 10 months and has covered a distance of over 10,000 miles.
Last year, the circus traveled from Kazan to perform in Krasnoyark, Irkutsk and the Pacific outpost of Vladivostok among other cities. Recently, some of the circus' elephants were pictured being taken around in trucks in Yakutsk, one of the coldest cities in the world.
Italy, last year, became the latest country in Europe to ban the use of animals in traveling circuses citing cruelty.
However, the Togni circus responded to the ban by "coming to Russia where the tortuous traveling distances are even bigger, the longest in the world," one of the campaigners said, according to the Siberian Times. "Banning cruelty in Italy, they made it worse in Russia for the same animals."
Animal rights group VITA's Irina Novozhilova also released a statement on the traveling circus, saying: "Conditions will not be humane in any circus, for one simple reason. Training goes hand in hand with cruelty. With elephants that means using hooks and electric shockers. Electric shockers cause mini-heart attacks."
Novozhilova added that animals in similar traveling troupes face beatings and starvation. "Circuses that go on tours travel for hundreds of miles in one go. Another lesser-known fact is that there is a quota for anesthesia for animals and if something happens, the existing quota will not be enough for even one single elephant," she said. "Let's say if an elephant breaks its leg, there will be no way to anesthetize it. Circuses are always cruel beyond limits. And circuses with animals should be banned."
Togni's Russian art director, Sergey Bondarchuk, however, dismissed the complaints made by activists, claiming that such circuses were "traditional."
"We love our animals a lot, they are our family. They too love the circus, they get bored without work. Our animals will live and die with us, they won't survive in the wild," he said.
Reports state that the distance covered by the Togni circus troupe, one of the largest circus dynasties in the world, is equivalent of a trip from London to Russia's most easterly outpost Pevek.