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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Animals do not exist to entertain or amuse us

Whether it's the lions in the Latino Circus or the white horse in Priyanka Chopra's wedding celebrations, animals deserve our respect

Meraas came under heavy criticism for hosting The Latino Circus at Last Exit Al Khawaneej Dubai. Reem Mohammed / The National
Meraas came under heavy criticism for hosting The Latino Circus at Last Exit Al Khawaneej Dubai. Reem Mohammed / The National

It’s been an interesting week in the world of animal welfare.

The Latino Circus rolled into Dubai, a pride of white lions in tow, clearly thinking it was 1985 – because surely that was the last time it was actually deemed acceptable to have animals performing tricks for a paying audience? Circuses are currently banned from including animals in their shows in more than 40 countries around the world, although not, alas, in the UAE.

The travelling circus, which was stationed at Last Exit D89 in Al Khawaneej, is clearly tone-deaf to current notions of what does, and what doesn’t, constitute as entertainment in the late 2010s. After the circus came under fire from UAE residents, Teddy Aouad, its manager, kindly suggested that critics “mind their own business”, adding that anyone who eats meat had no right to complain (effectively associating his act with the widespread slaughter of animals, and thus completely undermining his own point).

Latino circus 
Latino circus 

Last Exit responded by cancelling the show, and while it is heartening to see people take a stand and organisations responding accordingly, the whole debacle should never have happened in the first place. In a country where exotic animals are still routinely mistaken for household playthings, and videos regularly surface of fully grown lions frolicking on beaches on the ends of leashes, it was irresponsible of the organisers of the show, who proudly dubbed the event as an opportunity to “witness the live action of man vs lion”, to bring the circus to Dubai in the first place.

“I implore you to withdraw from hosting a circus with live animals – Dubai is far, far better than this,” wrote one person on the Last Exit Dubai Facebook page.

“The bottom line is, whether they are perfectly healthy and groomed or not, these animals are spending their lives in cages, which is cruel and unethical and is considered animal abuse,” was another pertinent comment on social media, made by Samantha Robins, who posted about the circus on several Facebook groups to alert people about the event’s use of wild animals.

Meanwhile, over at a palace in Jodhpur, celebrity couple du jour Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas also sparked the wrath of animal rights activists, by choosing to include animals in their much-publicised wedding festivities. As is traditional in many Indian weddings, pictures from the festivities showed both a white horse and white elephant, all saddled up and ready to be ridden. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal (Peta) India responded with a video highlighting how many of the white horses used in Indian weddings are routinely abused, kept in squalid conditions and then controlled using painful spiked bits. “Congrats, but we regret it was not a happy day for animals,” was the barbed message that the organisation had for the newly-weds.

“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated,” Mahatma Gandhi famously said, and I would agree that how we treat the other creatures that inhabit our planet should be a barometer of how civilised we are as a species. The king of the jungle was not designed to be locked in a tiny cage and shipped around the world for our amusement; white horses should not have spiked pieces of metal shoved in their mouths so that they are docile enough to carry a groom to his wedding reception; and elephants do not exist to make our Instagram snaps that little bit more spectacular. We should all be better than that.

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Read more of Selina's thoughts:

From Dubai to Abu Dhabi: some lessons learnt on a long commute

Let’s not be blasé about the range of opportunities Dubai has to offer

Race to the runway: the other side of Lewis Hamilton

Bluewaters’ soft opening has more fizzle than bang