25 OCTOBER 1930, Page 19


[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.] Sin,—The ball set rolling by Major Yeats-Brown in the Spectator is gathering momentum. The Bath and Wilts Chronicle has reprinted his letter of October 18th and also publishes an interview with Mr. Bertram Mills. In this interview he shifts the responsibility for still showing the bear on to the shoulders of Kossmeyer's father to whom the animal belongs, and who does not regard the bear as dangerous. The incident, says Mr. Mills, is regarded as " rough play by the family." Mr. Kossmeyer is now working the lions and tigers. In defining " rough play " Mr. Mills gives the following account of the " accident "

" The smooth wooden floor was slippery, and Mr. (Adolf) Kossmeyer slipped up, whereupon the bear gave him a playful blow with his paw. For the bear it was only the tap of a huge paw, but to the man it was a very heavy blow. The companion of the prone man tried to remove him from the cage, whereupon the bear put its paw on the man and dragged him back, the result being that he received fatal injuries. This. defines the phrase " rough play." The idea, if held by anyone, that the bear became enraged and tore at its adversary, is nowhere near the truth."

The following is a report of part of the evidence given by Richard Michalk, the assistant trainer, who was in the cage with Kossmeyer at the time :-

" We were washing the boar with soap and water when the bear stood up and bit Adolf in the back of the neck. The weight of the bear caused Adolf to fall to the ground."

" Did the bear again bite Adolf " " Yes, several times."

" Do Polar bears like being washed 1 " Yes, they rather like it. They are naturally accustomed to water."

Medical evidence stated, moreover, that there were over thirty wounds on the head, and that the man's right eye had been clawed out and his left ear torn off.

One may well ask what sort of injuries a bear inflicts when lie is in earnest, if this is merely his idea of " rough play " It will not do for Mr. Mills to pretend that he has no respon- sibility in the matter of keeping this animal in his circus. Nor will it do for the authorities to pretend that they have no power to act, for it is certain that had the bear belonged to some wandering gypsy, instead of to a first-rate show, he would then and there have been put to death by order of the coroner's court.

Mr. Mills made a big tactical error when he returned to his wild animal turns. He had, and-still has, a wonderful chance of instituting a circus which everyone can visit and enjoy to the full, i.e., one in which there is no suspicion of cruelty.—


Performing and Captive Animals' Defence League,

17 Buckingham Street, Adelphi, W.C. 2.