Activists for animal rights are fighting against elephants being forced to travel 10,000 miles across Siberia to perform in a traveling circus, according to a report in the Siberian Times.

After a ban on circus performances with animals in Italy, the Togni Circus moved to Russia in 2017 and as a result, the elephants, tigers and other animals are now transported in Russia in cramped trucks for thousands of miles. Including a performance in Yakutsk, built on permafrost and the coldest city on earth.

The circus is currently in Kemerovo, having performed in in Izhevsk, Nizhny Tagil, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk and the Pacific capital Vladivostok.

The petition against the cruelty of the elephants was started during a summer visit to Yakutsk where the elephants, Ron and Carla, were taken for a walk through the city. Some 93,000 signed the petition demanding a check on the legality of moving animals such large distances and then forcing them to perform.

One campaigner said: “Some European countries like Italy have banned all animals in traveling circuses because they’re cruel – but then the troupe responds by coming to Russia where the tortuous traveling distances are even bigger, the longest in the world.

“Banning cruelty in Italy they made it worse in Russia for the same animals.”

Irina Novozhilova, of the animal rights group VITA, said: “In no circus conditions will be humane 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 is campaigning against the inhumane transporting conditions and says the Italians are using the same conditions for transporting their animals as Russian circus.

“We have been working in this field for 25 years now and we know it from within,” she said.

“We stay in touch with vets who share information with us and there are former animal handlers who work with us.”

Claiming that animals in such traveling troupes face beatings and starvation, she continued: “Circuses that go on tours travel for hundreds of kilometers at one go.

“Another less 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.

“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.”

The distance covered by the Togni troupe is reportedly the equivalent of a trip from London to Russia’s most easterly outpost, Pevek.

Sergey Bondarchuk, Togni’s Russian art director, dismissed the complaints, saying:

“Such circuses are 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.”

Bondarchuk, 48, said he worked in the circus since the age of four, explaining that taking the circus to Yakutsk had been a dream of the troupe for a long time.

He continued: “Both the Italians and myself were dreaming of performing in Yakutsk, we’ve been dreaming about such a trip because Yakutsk circus is the northernmost of all,”  adding that the trucks have air conditioning and heating.

While traveling in Siberia, the troupe apparently stops every three hours to clean and feed the animals.

Bondarchuk said traveling across the vast distances of Siberia was ‘hard’ but claimed ‘’the animals are like children for us’’, adding “If something happens to them, we lose our jobs.”

Image Credits: The Siberian Times

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