The circus is one of those ancient entertainment entities that seem to magically survive in the internet era – for now. Parent still take their kids to the circus, and innovative shows like Cirque du Soleil, Nitro Circus and the Cirkus Cirkör have brought the concept of the circus to this century, and past the exploitation of animals.
But not all circuses have stopped using animals in their performances. In Sweden, using animals for entertainment purposes is legal, and not everyone is happy about it. In fact, some people are actively trying to change that. Young animal rights activists are mobilising, mapping out tour schedules of circuses in order to protest them. They've made it their mission to inform the public about what they feel is animal abuse. Their protests tend to be pretty calm – activists stand outside the circus tent, hold up signs and hand out flyers to visitors about animal rights. Some visitors stop to talk to the protesters, others just walk past by. It's a low-key and pretty calm affair – until recently.
This week, a video emerged of a circus worker throwing animal poo at protesters. The circus worker can be seen shouting "Come on, this is animal shit, you'll like it" while he's collecting and throwing poo from a wheel barrel. He then walks up to the demonstrators while holding a shovel with shit on it and asks them to check it out. One young protester pushes the shovel away and though there is no real physical altercation, there is a clear confrontation between the circus worker and the activists.
Joakim Bergros uploaded the video to Youtube. "At first, we were standing right by the fence when he started hurling shit towards us," Joakim tells me over the phone. "We were just standing there when he came up to say stuff like "So you like animals?". That's when he started throwing the shit. We were forced to move away from the fence and my friend Magnus started filming the whole thing with his phone." When I ask Joakim if they have ever witnessed anything like this before, he says that it was the first time he experienced someone throwing shit at them. But that some workers at other circuses have acted out before. "Circus workers from other circuses have thrown water on us before and acted in a threatening way."
When I ask Joakim if the poop-incident has made him reconsider his protest he is adamant: "No. We will not stop demonstrating until they stop keeping animals in their circus. We will stand there until they stop using animals. What they're doing to the animals is morally indefensible – animals are not ours to keep for entertainment."
Lars-Åke Jonsson is the owner of the circus and employs the faeces flinger. When asked how he feels about the incident that was captured on film he told us he couldn't comment on it, since he hadn't been there. But he had other things to say about the protesters outside his circus. "All of our vehicles and animal transports have been inspected. We take all of our animals to veterinary check-ups. We've done everything we can, and we care a lot about our animals. We would never hurt them. They [the protesters] have been here several times, but I can't say anything about this specific incident, because I wasn't there at the time. I just know that it happened. I'm fully aware that everyone in Sweden has the right to protest and I obviously respect that. I do feel like they don't have to stand right at our entrance, they can at least stand a hundred metres away. There should be a mutual respect for each other. I respect them and I wish they would respect us as well."
The origins of the poo remains unknown.