Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

New UK circus elephant show is a disgraceful step backwards – says ADI

Posted: 24 February 2009. Updated: 28 October 2009


Animal Defenders International (ADI) is calling on compassionate members of the public to express their disgust that The Great British Circus plans to open its 2009 tour with Asian and African elephants.

The Great British Circus features three elephants; two Asian elephants and one African elephant, that have been touring Europe. It’s the first time in more than ten years that an elephant act has come to the UK to perform. The show will also include a group of tigers (including a rare white tiger), lions, camels, zebras, reindeer and horses. Circus boss Martin Lacey was recently quoted as saying he was concerned about the recession but hoped the elephants would fill the void he expected from a downturn in business*

The circus opens on Friday February 27th at Newark, Nottinghamshire and performs until Sunday March 8th. When responding to an ADI query, Newark and Sherwood District Council reported that they did not have a ban on animal circuses and that they “never received requests from circuses”.

After the Government missed an opportunity to ban animal circuses with the Animal Welfare Act 2006, when 80% of the public expressed a wish for wild animals to be banned, a Circus Working Group was established by DEFRA to gather and evaluate evidence. However, this has been roundly criticized for discounting much of the evidence before it could even be considered.

More than 180 cross-party MPs have signed a parliamentary petition calling for the Government to fulfil its commitment to ban wild animals in circuses and to set up a proper licensing system for domesticated animals. EDM 965 is the animal welfare parliamentary petition with the third highest number of signatures, putting it in the top one per cent.

Circus animals are not currently given protection under the Animal Welfare Act as circus regulations have not yet been written and DEFRA is expected to issue a feasibility study.

ADI Chief Executive, Jan Creamer, says “Elephants are intelligent, social animals that need a large amount of space, and a great deal of stimulation. It is extraordinary that, while worldwide awareness of animal suffering in circuses has never been greater, and an increasing number of countries like Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Bolivia are seriously considering bans on animals in circuses, due to Government inaction the UK is suddenly going backwards in history and permitting wild animals in circuses – something unacceptable to 80 per cent of the British public. The Government is to blame for allowing the resurgence of elephants as performers. We need the legislation we were promised, and we need it fast.”


For further information, contact ADI Public Relations Officer, Ally MacDonald
Office Tel: 020 7630 3344
Mobile: 07785 552548

ADI ‘Animals In Entertainment Campaigner’, Alexandra Cardenas, is available for interview. ISDN radio facilities are available at the ADI offices.

The scientific report ‘Animals in Travelling Circuses: The Science on Suffering’ can be downloaded here:

The full-length video of Stop Circus Suffering – UK is available here:

Findings from an ADI Mori Poll in the UK in 2005 include:
80% say ban all wild animal circus acts and 65% say ban all animal circus acts.
90% against whipping and beating when training circus animals.

*Brown, P. (February 6-12, 2009) ’Great British Circus plans ambitious programme to beat recession’. World’s Fair. Mortons of Horncastle Limited.

In 2006, Ben Bradshaw, then minister for animal welfare at Defra, announced: “I sympathise with the view that performances by some wild animals in travelling circuses are not compatible with meeting their welfare needs. … To provide this clarity I intend to use a regulation under clause 10 of the Animal Welfare Bill to ban the use in travelling circuses of certain nondomesticated species whose welfare needs cannot be satisfactorily met in that environment.”

According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (2008):
the Asian elephant is listed as ‘endangered’
the African elephant is listed as ‘near threatened’

© Animal Defenders International 2019