Martin Lacey

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This page refers to the performer and animal trainer born in 1947. For his son see Martin Lacey, Jr.

Martin Lacey (born 1947) is a circus ringmaster, company director and trainer of wild animals. He trained most of the tigers that were used in the Esso television advertisements in the 1970s[1][2]

Professional life[edit]

He has been breeding and training animals including lions, tigers and elephants for over forty years. He is a Government Registered Wild Animal Trainer.[3]

In his heyday he appeared in UK television variety shows and was known as the “King Of The Cage”[4] and "the Man Fear Forgot".[5] He provided most of the tigers used in the Esso oil television advertisements up until the 1970s.[6] However, changes in public attitudes to performing animals mean that he has faced criticism in recent years.


He is the owner of the Great British Circus company that, unusually for the UK, organises circuses with live wild animals including tigers, camels and elephants. He is also a director of Linctrek Ltd, a company which provides trained animals for films, television, commercials and zoos.[7]

Use of wild animals[edit]

His use of wild animals has attracted considerable criticism and protests.[8][9][10] However, he defends his company's approach as follows: "The Circus takes veterinary advice from world-respected experts, not from campaign groups who too often seek to excite public sympathy in their quest for donations and support.".[11]

BBC investigation into links with Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm[edit]

In October 2009 it was revealed by the BBC and the Captive Animals Protection Society[12] that many of the animals at Noah's Ark Zoo Farm near Bristol, including tigers and camels are owned by Lacey’s Great British Circus company, and the owners had been keeping the arrangement secret from visitors and from the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA).[13] The zoo denied the claims, stating "We do not hold Circus Tigers here at the Zoo. Our tigers come from Linctrek Ltd., based in North West England, and do not belong to the Great British Circus, contrary to claims made".[14]

Personal life[edit]

He lives at Keal Cotes in Lincolnshire.[15][16] His wife Susan, also a circus performer and animal trainer, is now retired.[17] He has four sons, Edward Lacey, Alex Lacey and Martin Lacey, Jr. who are animal trainers,[18] and Richard, who does not work in the circus industry. Since he retired from the big top, Martin Lacey is active as circus consultant for Billi Smiles circus, a new circus in its first year of touring.[19]


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  2. ^ Wainwright, Martin (2001-02-07). "'Nip' from tiger puts trainer in hospital". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
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  6. ^ Keal Cotes
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  12. ^ "CAPS expose zoo breeding tigers for circus owner". The Captive Animals' Protection Society. October 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-19. 
  13. ^ Daily Mail Reporter (19 October 2009). "Zoo skinned dead tiger Tira and stored her head in freezer". Mail Online. Associated Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 2009-10-19. 
  14. ^ "Recent Press Coverage". Noah's Ark Zoo Farm. Retrieved 2009-10-19. 
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  16. ^ Wainwright, Martin (2001-02-07). "'Nip' from tiger puts trainer in hospital". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  17. ^ de:Martin Lacey jr
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