SAINT-PETERSBURG: Russian rock stars and actors on Thursday urged world-renowned clown Slava Polunin to end what they called cruel treatment of animals at the top circus where he recently took over as director.

Animal acts are still commonplace at Russian circuses and remain a popular attraction even though Western circuses have rejected the practice due to increasing public disgust. The celebrities signed a letter which was handed to Vyacheslav or Slava Polunin, the director of the Big Saint Petersburg Circus in the northwestern Russian city.

Known for his spectacular “Slava’s Snowshow,” which he has performed round the world, Polunin was appointed director of the state circus in January.

The circus’s website says that it currently features acts with animals such as dogs, sea lions, crocodiles and ducks.

Local celebrities including rock star Boris Grebenshikov and arthouse film director Alexander Sokurov called on Polunin to end the misery of “circus animal prisoners”. “You know well that animal training cannot be humane. The days of circuses with animals are numbered and society, in bidding farewell to this anachronism, is moving to a different, higher level of consciousness,” the letter said.

“We are sure that with all your qualities, you are given the role of creating a new circus genre in Russia, which will allow us to move away from cruel circus traditions,” the letter urged Polunin.–AFP