Animal rights outcry after bear turns on trainer during performance at Russian circus

A circus bear attack in Russia that left its trainer injured has sparked global outrage by animal rights campaigners.

The bear turned on its trainer during a performance in northern Russia, biting him and forcing him to the floor as horrified audience members looked on.

Video of the attack in Olonets, a town 180km north-east of St Petersburg, shows the bear walking on its hind legs pushing a wheelbarrow.

The animal then attacks the trainer and bites him as another circus employee runs in and begins kicking bear just feet away from children watching the performance.

The bear turned on its trainer during a performance in Olonets, Russia (Picture: Australscope)

The bear was reportedly subdued with an electric shock device as audience members fled the big top.

The trainer floored by the bear is understood to be “injured” but the incident has sparked a backlash by animal rights campaigners.

Elisa Allen, Director of PETA, said: “It's unthinkable that in this day and age, animals continue to be held in captivity, deprived of all that's natural and important to them, and forced to perform painful tricks under threat of punishment.

“Cowardly circus trainers protect themselves from wild animals' natural instincts – which remain very much intact – with force and, in the case of bears, by removing their teeth and claws.

“The tide is turning against these cruel spectacles, so it's time Russia came to its senses and joined many other countries in banning them.”

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Ricky Gervais shared a link of a story reporting on the attack, adding the comment: “Beautiful, abused bear finally defends itself.”

Spectators at the circus hit out at the fact there was nothing separating the audience from the ring.

Mother of one Galina Gurieva, 27, who filmed the terrifying incident, said: “My knees are still trembling. I was shocked there was no fence for the safety of spectators, given the size of the bear.”

Another parent said: “The spectators rushed outside in panic, including me.”

While many countries now ban circuses with live animal performances, travelling circuses with live animal performances are still popular in Russia.

The country’s laws ban causing injury or death to an animal with malicious or mercenary motives, or with sadistic methods, or in the presence of minors, but there are no animal welfare laws addressing the idea of using animals for recreation.

In May this year, the UK Government announced a new law banning travelling circuses from using wild animals.

Reindeer, zebras and camels will be among those protected by the new law.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said at the time: "Travelling circuses are no place for wild animals in the 21st Century and I am pleased that this legislation will put an end to this practice for good."