Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Animal Health response on the 3 elephants of the Great British Circus

Posted: 23 June 2009. Updated: 28 October 2009


Following the import of three new elephants by the Great British Circus, ADI presented a Freedom on Information request to Animal Health in the Department of Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) in order to verify their legal origin and lawful circulation throughout Europe.

In March, ADI requested a copy of the following: any permit or performance permits for the elephants, communications between the circus and Defra regarding the import of the animals and any paperwork between any foreign circus and Defra related to the importation.

Animal Health provided the following response: “Please note that that Animal Health do not hold copies of these documents and so cannot supply them to you. These documents remain with the travelling animals and are checked en route to ensure compliance with the Circus Animals Act, […] the only documents that we have on record relative to this matter, the English and French versions of the European Community Intra Certificates. […] These certificates were applied for in the EU, not in the UK, and were issued in Belgium, so we have no further correspondence relating to them. Whilst these certificates are not issued by Animal Health, they do constitute a permit to travel.”

The enclosed Intra certificate was completely illegible. ADI thought that it was just the quality of the enclosed photocopy; therefore we asked for the resubmission of the documents via email and attached on a pdf file. In April, Animal Health replied: “They are not very clear as they are scans of photocopied documents, as that is all we have access to.” The attached pdf file of the Intra certificate was still illegible.

ADI presented a complaint about Animal Health’s response and requested an internal review, based on the following grounds:
•The European Community Itra Trade certificates are illegible and impossible to use as working documents.
•Animal Health made reference to the “Circus Animals Act”: ADI is unaware of the existence of that piece of legislation, and therefore we requested a copy.

We also requested the following:
•Copies of the reports of pre-movement visits carried out by Animal Health.
•Copy of the CITES permits and any other documents related to the import of the elephants.

Almost a month later, after having to follow up our request, Animal Health replied the same day stating that they were not required to hold copies of these documents and that the copies supplied were “ documents provided by Circus staff, using their photocopier.” Concerning the pre-movement inspection documents and CITES permits requested, they commented: “The country of origin should ensure the animals are fit to travel, not the recipient, so we do not hold the documents requested. I confirm Animal Health do not hold CITES documents for these animals – there is no requirement for these animals travelling within the EU.”

Thus the only requirement to import the 3 elephants into the UK was an email sent by the circus representative to Animal Health attaching the illegible European Community Itra Trade certificates. It seems that Animal Health did not even challenge these documents or request resubmission. In addition, Defra is confused about existing legislation governing the use of animals in circuses, as they initially referred to the existence of a Circus Animal Act, Animal Health clarified: “this was erroneous; it should have referred to EC Regulation 1739/2005”.

Click here to see Animal Health’s initial response
Click here to view the Itra certificate in French
Click here to view the Itra certificate in English
Click here to see Animal Health’s second response

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