Norway’s government minister in charge of agriculture had an unusual issue involving animals on his desk this week, and only ended up creating more controversy when he dealt with it. Animal rights activists are furious Trygve Slagsvold Vedum of the Center Party wants to let elephants continue to be used in circus entertainment.
The circus elephant debate has simmered for years, ever since one of Vedum’s predecessors proposed banning circus elephants in 2002. Animal rights advocates claim it’s cruel to keep the large animals confined and that they’re vulnerable to abuse during training.
Major circus operators in Norway defended their care and display of elephants, and newspaper VG reported this week that Vedum had decided to defy the professional advice of state regulatory agency Mattilsynet, who also advocated a ban, and continue to allow elephants in a circus.
That set off immediate protests but Vedum turned a deaf ear, and had one of his Center Party colleagues defend his decision during a heated debate on national radio station NRK P1 on Thursday. Vedum, who’s also been fending off massive criticism for his decision to boost prices for meat and cheese, has claimed, though, that he’ll demand circus operators to provide more space for elephants, exercise them regularly and shower them in warm weather.