Members of animal welfare NGOs yesterday protested in Floriana as part of their campaign dubbed "Animal Circus = Cruelty" as the Circo Bellucci started its shows under the big top at the Independence Arena.
The NGOs object that animals at the circus are forced to live in captivity and say they are subjected to continuous maltreatment, a claim strongly denied by the organisers.
The noisy protestors gathered behind barriers near the entrance to the circus under continuous rain and booed people entering the tent. The more vociferous even called them "fools", "heartless" and "without a conscience". "Shame", they yelled. There was a rather strong police presence but no incidents were reported.
The protesters carried placards reading "Circus = Cruelty" and banged drums or blew whistles as they shouted slogans: "No to cruelty, no to the circus".
But Silvio Zammit on behalf of JS Productions Ltd, which brought the Bellucci Circus to Malta, denied that the animals are maltreated.
Speaking at a press conference, Mr Zammit said everyone was free to protest and express their beliefs.
However, he produced a certificate by Italian veterinarian Daniele Laguardia who declared that he had inspected the animals before they left for Malta and found no signs of sickness or maltreatment.