Animal Welfare


is our most important priority

We are both fortunate that we had the chance as children in a zoo and later in a circus with our parents to be around and work with exotic animals.  Our parents did not expect us to follow in their footsteps, because no one knows better than they do how much hard work and time is required to care for exotics.  Nevertheless, we both decided during boarding school that we wanted to work with these meat-eaters.  We love the big cats.


The most painful thing to happen to us in our time with these large cats is not being bitten by a lion or tiger, or being caught by a claw.  That’s a risk we take by choosing to mingle with these fascinating animals.  What really hurts us is the accusation that we risk the mental and physical health of our four-legged family members for our profit.  Our animals are family.  We love them, watch out for their health and well-being, and we ensure that they receive the best.


We see ourselves as supporters of animal welfare.  Our love for animals extends far beyond the animals we interact with daily.  We want future generations to still have the chance to see lions, tigers, elephants and rhinos in the wild.  We hope that wildlife habitats are preserved, that poachers are stopped and that the ruthless exploitation of nature is brought to an end.  We are convinced that through our work we actively contribute towards animal welfare.


We believe that people can only truly love and protect what they know.  This is why we have animals in the circus.  It gives our guests the opportunity not only to see amazing exotic animals, but to know them as individuals and to learn to love them.  It shows them that larger predators are not just carnivores and perfect killing machines, but rather that they are affectional, playful cats. They have a social intelligence that is not only demonstrated with each other, but also through building relationships with people.  


Everything that lives is learning and evolving.  Why should animals be any different?  Why shouldn’t animals have the chance to learn and find harmony with people?


Our confidence in our relationships with our lions and tigers is not only based on our lifelong experience with big cats and our love for them.  We also take every opportunity to work with behavioral scientists, veterinarians and biologists so that as a team we can learn as much as possible about our animals.


This is why we find it so difficult to accept the attacks from animal rights activists - and we know that many of them mean well and are committed to animals.  Yet, being confronted with false allegations is wrong.


On exotic animals and their freedom:


Let us take some of the comments we have heard and respond.


For example: “Wild animals should not be taken from nature.”  We are of the same opinion.  Unfortunately wild animals are tracked continuously and there is limited protected habitat for them to roam free.  Many find themselves orphaned and in zoos.  As long as the animals are humanely kept in the zoo, the zoo has the chance to contribute to saving the species.  Animals born in the wild provide the chance to extend the breeding gene pool.  This is extremely important.  


Our animals are not from the wild.  Our lions and tigers are all from the offspring of our extended cat family.  In most cases they are the direct offspring of cats that have lived for generations with our family.  We are currently working with the 10th generation of lions and tigers in the eight generation of the Lacey family who worked with animals.  We value the mental and physical health of our animals and therefore place value on keeping records to avoid inbreeding.  The only animals that have not been bred in our family are Martin’s first generation of white lions.  They come from other breeders.  However, white lions cannot survive in the wild due to their coloring.  They need to be kept in captivity or their species could become extinct.


Another accusation which we are confronted with again and again is that “animals need their freedom.”  Heini Hediger, director of the Zurich Zoo reported that a group of monkeys escaped repeatedly from its cage.  These monkeys usually sat on a tree at the zoo and did not know what to do with the “freedom.”  Hediger and his colleagues used a trick.  Monkeys are afraid of snakes - so they were shown a snake.  The monkeys naturally fled straight back to where they felt safe, their cages.  One is said to have closed the screen door behind him.  The cage to the monkeys meant security and safety, not prison.


This is precisely the point of which, if one throws around the word “freedom” one should think.  For animals in almost all cases “freedom” means the constant threat of predators, lack of food, all the ravages of nature and the threat of being exposed to mortal danger at any moment.  A zebra who gets stuck or injured in a hole could become the next meal of a pride of lions because it cannot escape fast enough.  A lion with a thorn or festering wound in it’s foot could starve due to not being able to hunt.


Something else to note is that most people associate “freedom” with the ability to go wherever you want.  Wild animals do not have this kind of freedom.  Even the mighty tigers in the jungle cannot move freely and settle where they would like.  Freedom is limited by territorial boundaries.  Lions are also only able to move within their territory - the attempt to hunt in a neighboring area could cost them their lives.  Lions protect their territory with all available means - and they have no inhibitions against killing.


We cannot ask our animals whether they prefer to be free and live in the wilderness, yet we are convinced that they are doing better in our care than their free cousins.  They do not go hungry, have their territories threatened and they are under veterinary care if something hurts.  If they are injured we fly specialists in to care for them.  All of our animals are vaccinated and the extensive studies we have would make some people turn green with envy.  Two facts show us that our animals obviously feel comfortable with us.  One example is that white lions in the wild rarely live more than nine years.  We have lions, such as Alexander’s  Masai, who is 16 years old and still enjoys performing in the ring; and Martin’s old lioness Flo, who lived with him until the delicate old age of 26. 


Our second set of proof is evidence of the well-being of our animals; they breed.   In the wild, lionesses and tigresses breed every second year.  We only breed for our own needs.  We do not want to sell any animals, so we only breed as many lions or tigers as we require to be able to use as juniors [youngsters?] in our groups.  We do so with a good conscience.


Another accusation that is repeatedly said is “Performance is animal cruelty and based on coercion.”  With all due respect, we are not out to harm ourselves.  If we would try to force our lions or tigers, if we were to use aggressive methods for training, we could expect that aggression would come back.  Our chances of returning from the cage safely and in one piece would shrink significantly if that were the case.  


Performances Art, and yes, we see it as an art form, is based on the natural instincts and abilities of the animals that are encouraged through building confidence and the use of positive motivation.  We do not “force” our animals, but rather praise and use treats to encourage their playfulness as well as to help them to rely on us as their alphas in the pride.  Our animal training and presentation are games as well as entertainment.  If any of our cats do not feel like appearing they can stay in their enclosure.  We accept this as an expression of their individuality and free will.


“The constant moving in the circus is stressful for the animals.”  We have never felt so, but we wanted to know for sure.  So, we had a renowned behavioral scientist, Dr. Immanuel Birmelin come to observe our animals on a longer trip.  Normally we travel 50-80 kilometers between venues on the summer tour.  During a winter tour Martin took his lions from Monte Carlo to Munich - a distance of 1200 kilometers.  Dr. Birmelin’s observations concluded that none of the animals, not even the young lions, showed any symptoms of stress.  After being checked before the trip by an exotic cat specialist, the cats slept most of the trip in their heated cars.


We are happy to now to be able to offer facts and figures.  Our animals have been observed over many years of traveling and they have never demonstrated that they were nervous or stressed. Our lions and tigers travel from the time they are young, and unlike us, who in every new city must adapt to the new surroundings, our animals habitats do not change from location to location. Their car and outdoor enclosures are always arranged in the same way. Their routine is maintained.  It does not matter where we are, be it the North Sea, Cote d’Azur, France or at home in winter quarters. 


Tigers and lions have extremely good hearing and sense of smell, so traveling from one place to another has an advantage for them.  Each city they have a different view from their enclosure.  The ground beneath their feet feels different, the smells and sounds are different - and our lions and tigers enjoy the variety. They find the discovery of an enclosure in a new place is always exciting. It is clearly stated through the behavioral scientists who have visited that, when it comes to welfare, our animals are very happy. The circus here is exemplary.


We appreciate and respect the fact that many people today are engaged in supporting animal welfare. We understand and find it important that they are critical of us. That's why we want them to ask us questions and give us a chance to show them our animals as well as educate them about what we do with them and why we are convinced that the circus with animals is important and right.


Thank you.

Alexander Lacey

Martin Lacey Jr.

Summer 2014