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THE ROSE-TINTED MENAGERIE

A History of Animals in Entertainment,
from Ancient Rome to the 20th Century

by William M Johnson

with introductions by Desmond Morris
(author of the Human Zoo and The Naked Ape)
and the late Sadruddin Aga Khan

with 47 colour and b/w illustrations


Hailed as ‘a ground-breaking work’ upon its original release in 1990, the unabridged, fully illustrated, 325-page edition of The Rose-Tinted Menagerie has now been republished by Iridescent in ebook form. From the circus amphitheatres of ancient Rome, to the first travelling dolphin shows in America, Europe and the Far East… From the global trade in wild animals, to the captive chimps and dolphins exploited as tools of war… Through two thousand years of history, The Rose-Tinted Menagerie explores the human attitudes that have shaped our species' conquest-driven relationship with nature as a whole, a psychology as evident in the taming of the wild beast for the circus arena, argues the author, as in the razing of forests or the mass extinction of species.

circus menagerie entrance circus elephant

‘…nothing in nature can quite match the wilful viciousness, manipulation and self-aggrandisement displayed by the human mammals who run The Rose-Tinted Menagerie. The setting for William Johnson’s angry book is a small and specialised one: the world of circuses, menageries, safari parks and dolphinaria; of animals as entertainment. But because the animal show is, literally, a dramatisation of our superiority over the animal kingdom, an enactment of little parables of mastery and servitude, it is also a microcosm of our whole relationship with nature…’Richard Mabey, The Independent on Sunday

‘An outstanding investigation…’Naomi Lewis, Books of the Year, The Observer

‘A ground-breaking work… of great importance…'Tom Regan


About the author

Prior to its first publication in 1990, author and investigative journalist William M Johnson spent five years researching The Rose-Tinted Menagerie. His research took him to big tops, menageries and dolphin pools throughout the length and breadth of Europe, and to circus shows from as far afield as the Soviet Union and the United States. From his own undercover work and from the testimony of scores of ex-circus and dolphin show staff, by 1990 Johnson had built up a formidable catalogue of evidence that, upon publication, dismayed wildlife experts, shocked the casual reader and provoked political debate: The Rose-Tinted Menagerie. While some establishments have since shut their doors forever — such as the infamous dolphin ‘striptease’ revue at the Moulin Rouge in Paris — these historical snapshots lucidly expose forms of cruelty and exploitation tragically still all too prevalent elsewhere, from the brutal capture of dolphins from the wild, to the sordid travelling dolphin shows currently entertaining locals and tourists in the Far East.

orca in captivity dolphin capture


Publishing info

Title: The Rose-Tinted Menagerie
Author: William M Johnson
Format: Ebook
ISBN: 978-3-9524015-1-4 (Amazon Kindle mobi)
ISBN: 978-3-9524015-5-2 (epub)
Available on: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk or from the iBookstore.
Publication date: July 2012 (mobi), March 2014 (epub)
Publisher: Iridescent Publishing
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