Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Plans to license wild animal circuses in the hands of the Lords

Posted: 23 October 2012. Updated: 23 October 2012


On Wednesday, 24 October, the draft regulations for the licensing of wild animals in circuses will be discussed at a Grand Committee in the House of Lords. The debate will provide peers with the opportunity to review the proposed legislation and decide whether it is robust enough to serve its purpose.

ADI believes that the regulations are unworkable, ineffective and will not safeguard the welfare of wild animals in circuses. For example, licensing would not have prevented:

  • The terrible violence inflicted on Anne the elephant at the winter quarters of Bobby Roberts Super Circus in 2011. Anne’s owners are charged with three offences under the Animal Welfare Act, the trial for which will take place next month. Read more…
  • The suffering of the three elephants that toured with the Great British Circus in 2009, whose chaining overnight was not spotted by RSPCA and local officials (and which the circus lied to the House of Commons about). One of the elephants, Delhi, was “chronically and obviously lame”, but the seriousness of her health issues were not picked up during early inspections and, contrary to advice, the circus continued to make her perform, despite a verbal assurance that they would not do so. Read more…

To support the draft legislation on licensing, the government has produced guidance for circus operators but this document is flawed with gaping holes in key welfare considerations. For example the document does not cover some species which are currently touring with circuses; of five species categories, only one has guidelines concerning the display, training and performance of animals; and there is no restriction on breeding, which could mean that the number of animals in circuses actually increases.

Despite promises since 2006 that a wild animal circus ban will be introduced – most recently in March of this year – and political and public support for a ban, it is hugely disappointing that the government are continuing to waste taxpayers’ money and parliamentary time by pressing ahead with plans to regulate.

The UK prides itself on being a world leader in animal welfare but Europe and South America are leading the way on this issue, with animal circus bans in Ecuador, Greece and Peru announced this year alone. When is the UK government going to stay true to its promise and consign the use of wild animals in circuses into the past where it belongs?

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