Citizen Voices / News

Boswell Circus: Entertainment or Exploitation?

The Brian Boswell Circus is coming to Grahamstown and many town locals are questioning how ethical it is for animals to be used in circuses. Shannon Frost investigates the controversy surrounding the matter.


Brian Boswell Circus poster advertised in local Grahamstown store. Photo: Shannon Frost

Grahamstown locals have formed a Facebook event to protest against the Brian Boswell Circus and  exploitation of animals. The protest aims to bring awareness to the Grahamstown community  of the conditions that circus animals are subjected to.

Farm Animal Centre for Education (FACE) Director, Jenny Copley-­Forster, is leading the  protest along with Carol Harnwell although the plans are fluid at this stage. Copley-­Forster  assures the protest, “will involve a dignified visible presence at the circus venue for as much  time as possible”.

The protest will begin Tuesday, 17 March at Fiddler’s Green and will continue throughout  the Boswell Circus performance period. Copley-­Forster hopes to convince members of the  public not to attend the circus and awaken an understanding of the issues involved. Copley-Forster’s main motivation to protest the Boswell Circus comes from her belief that, “as  animals are sentient beings that experience pain, fear and deprivation in the same way as  humans do, clearly cruelty towards them is unacceptable at every level,” she explained.


Screenshot taken from “Grahamstown Protest against the exploitation of animals by Brian Boswell Circus” Facebook page.

Performers and supporters of the Boswell Circus have defended the circus as an informal  debate transpired on the Facebook event page. Supporters, along with circus employees, gave  praise to the Boswell company and the welfare of the circus animals and urged the people of  Grahamstown to attend and formulate their own opinions.


Screenshot taken from “Grahamstown Protest against the exploitation of animals by Brian Boswell Circus” Facebook page.


Screenshot taken from “Grahamstown Protest against the exploitation of animals by Brian Boswell Circus” Facebook page.

Embizweni has recently contacted The Brian Boswell Circus. Read the update by clicking here.

Copley-­Forster explained how she anticipated a “vociferous reaction” to the protest event  from the Boswell Circus owners, staff and supporters but argued that, “There is no ethical  justification for the subjection of animals for human entertainment, but they are entitled to  make their opinions heard, however invalid they may be”. She then reiterated how she and  the protestors have “no objection to human circus acts which are skilled, entertaining and,  most importantly, performed by choice”.


Screenshot taken from “Grahamstown Protest against the exploitation of animals by Brian Boswell Circus” Facebook page.

The Rhodes Organisation for Animal Rights (ROAR) society has shown their support for the  protest by stating that they will most likely be attending the protest. Chairperson of ROAR,  Lauren Buckle, explained how “it has been suggested that the Brian Boswell Circus has  previously had cases of animal cruelty…ROAR would protest any circus that uses animals for entertainment and our opinion is therefore not directly targeted to the Brian Boswell Circus, but to all circuses that use animals”.

If you would like to find out more information on the protest you can find the event on  Facebook or contact Jenny Copley­Forster on 083 773 6183. The Brain Boswell Circus will  be in Grahamstown from the 17 to 19 March 2015.


7 thoughts on “Boswell Circus: Entertainment or Exploitation?

  1. The argument that the animals are cared for is irrelevant. This suggests that as long as we keep someone well fed and sheltered, we can force them to do our bidding? This is what pimps do, do they not? The animals should not be there, full stop, kept in cages unacceptable in a zoo, traveling all over without a chance to have their own territory, with noise, lights, human interaction, unable to make their own relationships, and behave as their species should. They can’t even escape one another! We applaud those human entertainers there by choice. Science acknowledges what many have instinctively known for hundreds of years: in their joy, sorrow and suffering, the human and non-human is alike! Enslaving others for a lifetime so we can be “entertained” for an hour is questionable at best. Legal does not mean ethical! Making money from the backs of unwilling others is, well you decide on the best description… No animal should be forced to learn and perform tricks on demand, day in and out, no matter what. It is about inherent cruelty, and teaching our children that we can exploit others for our own ends, and this is not only acceptable , but desirable. I say no!


  2. Boswell is travelling without his wild animals (currently locked up in his zoo) because he still has a case of animal cruelty pending against him (as per the Carte Blanche expose – see

    Be that as it may, no animal’s needs can be provided for when confined to trailers and crates, and in transit (at least 80% of their lives). When not in transit, their existence consist of training, performing to loud music, the ever present whip and raucous crowds, and being locked in their trailers with possibly a short period in a tiny ‘exercise ring’ during daylight hours if weather conditions are favourable. Circus animals are consistently subjected to unremitting physical and thermal discomfort, the stress of having to adjust to a new environment every other week, and they never have the opportunity to express normal patterns of behaviour.

    As for animals in circuses being legal, from a historic perspective, the morally indefensible practices of slavery and apartheid were legal for many years, and the suffering of animals for ‘fun’ should be seen in this light in every modern and civilised society. The archaic legislation in South Africa – dating back to 1935 and ostensibly there to ‘protect’ performing animals (but not worth the paper it is written on) – should be scrapped, and a ban on all circus animals enacted in our country, as has already been imposed (fully or partially) in more than 40 countries and states worldwide.

    The attendance of children (I see Boswell targets underprivileged children) at animal circuses gives false educational messages about human treatment of animals – making human use and subjugation of animals appear acceptable, and ‘fun’. Seeing animals in circuses does not provide a realistic educational tool because the animals are forced to perform tricks and live in conditions that are not natural for them. Something that is seldom given any thought by educators who allow circuses to hand out free tickets to attract learners and their families, and schools even take them on the ‘educational’ tour offered, which is part of every circus’s sales pitch targeted at children as a matter of course.

    We say ban ALL animals from circuses. There is no place for this form of medieval ‘entertainment’ in the 21st century.


  3. Pingback: Circus Animals: Choose a view, take a stand | Chronicles of a Dreamer

  4. Pingback: Boswell Circus owner responds to protests | Embizweni

  5. Pingback: Boswell Circus owner responds to protests | The Frost Files

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