Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Animal Welfare Minister Urged to Stop UK Circus Suffering

Posted: 3 February 2011. Updated: 3 February 2011


Now is the time for decisive action

Animal Defenders International (ADI), the UK based leading animal protection organisation that works globally for the protection of animals has stepped up its campaign to ban the use of wild animals in circuses, gaining substantial political cross party support in the process.

In a show of unity, ADI representatives and over 20 MP’s from all political persuasions gathered today at Parliament, to pledge their commitment to securing a ban on the use of wild animals in UK circuses, and calling on the Minister responsible Lord Henley to finally action what the UK is calling out for.

A recent parliamentary poll conducted by ADI found that 63% of MPs would like to see a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses and only 14% disagreed. Government’s own public consultation in March 2010 also found that 94.5% of respondents backed a ban on wild animal acts.

ADI has already provided government with a wealth of overwhelming evidence from undercover investigations that graphically shows that random violence and abuse is an unfortunate part of everyday life for animals currently languishing in circuses. Both evidence and opinion is now overwhelming, and government needs to act decisively and enact a total ban.

Jan Creamer, Chief Executive of Animal Defenders International said: “We applaud the politicians here today and the others who have signed the parliamentary Early Day Motion, for helping us strike a blow for wild animals currently suffering in UK circuses.

“We have also been encouraged by the results of our recent political opinion poll and by the results of government’s own public consultation last year that found nearly 100 per cent of the public were behind a total ban.

“It is now abundantly clear to us – so should be to the Minister – that public and political support for a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses has never been stronger. This process has been trundling along for over five years, and we were promised an announcement last autumn on a ban on wild animal acts but the Minister has since gone very quiet. It is now time that government listened to the will of the UK people and enacted a ban.”

162 politicians have now signed Early Day Motion (EDM) 403 ‘Wild Animals In Circuses’, tabled by former Defra Minister Jim Fitzpatrick MP, which states there is no obstacle to a ban on wild animals in circuses and a ban should be implemented. This shows strong cross-party support for a ban on animals in circuses in the UK Parliament, and demonstrates the depth of feeling as this is one of the top number of signatories to an animal welfare EDM.

Speaking at the launch today, Mr Fitzpatrick, Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse said: “I fought to make this ban a reality when I was Minister but we ran out of parliamentary time, but there was the political will there to enact a total ban. The only thing stopping this ban from coming in place is a decision by Ministers.”

Mr Neil Parish, Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton and Chair of the Associate Parliamentary Group on Animal Welfare said: “There is absolutely no justification for using wild animals in the circus. The loud noises and dazzling lights are distressing and these animals are kept in very poor conditions whilst being carted about the country. The economic effects of a ban would be negligible as most circuses quite rightly no longer use wild animals and the British public have consistently demanded an end to this cruel practice.”

Mr John Leech, Liberal Democrat MP for Manchester Withington said: “As a nation of animal lovers, it really is high time that the government listened to the will of the public, legislated in this matter and implemented a ban. The use of animals in circuses is archaic, outdated, and their use no longer has a place in a civilized society. They should be rehomed to animal sanctuaries and allowed to live out the rest of their lives in comfort. ADI get my full support in this matter.”

A ban on wild animal acts was also backed by the now Deputy Prime minister Nick Clegg, prior to the election.

All present today agreed that the draconian use and abuse of animals in circuses is no longer acceptable, and that self regulation of the industry, which is being considered as a viable route by the Minister, is totally flawed, as effectively the abusers themselves are being asked to self regulate.

ADI’s investigation into the Great British Circus (GBC) in 2009 showed that violence against animals in circuses is far from an exceptional occurrence and at the very least circuses cannot provide an environment in which the welfare needs of wild animals can effectively be met.

Their exposé of the horrific abuse of elephants put wild animals in circuses back on the political agenda and the damning evidence from this investigation was presented to Government, which helped prompt a three month public consultation of animal circuses, the results of which were condemning for UK circuses.

And the GBC was not an isolated case. Previously ADI exposed systematic and random cruelty of animals at the Chipperfields circus a decade before as part of an undercover investigation. When this material was released as the ‘Ugliest Show on Earth’, it was credited with bringing the UK’s animal circus industry to its knees.

The spread of years shows that these abusive practices have been common for a long time and are considered as acceptable within the industry. Video collected by ADI from other overseas countries also confirms these practices are endemic – and no other animal industry has been so repeatedly caught on film abusing animals.

Helder Constantino, ADI’s Director of Legislative Affairs said: “Circus animals have been waiting and waiting for an end to their suffering. We have had promises of a ban, calls in the Houses of Commons and Lords for a ban, public opinion polls calling for a ban, and a public consultation with an unprecedented 94.5% support for a ban. It is high time for the Minister to ban the use of wild animals in circuses – once and for all – and listen to the will of the country.”

ADI are currently in the midst of a record breaking 25 lion rescue from Bolivia to a sanctuary in the US, as a direct result of helping close the industry there, having worked undercover for months to expose the cramped living conditions and often savage treatment of animals.

As a direct result of ADI’s investigation, the Bolivian government has placed a ban on the use of animals, both wild and domestic, the first country to do so in the world. Last year they rescued an initial four lions from circuses there to the US, and a baboon to the UK.

Jan said: “When Bolivia banned animal circuses we brought Tilin the baboon here because we have wonderful sanctuaries supported by a generous public, and we are currently in the process of rescuing 25 circus lions from Bolivia to the US, where they will live the rest of their lives, free from further punishment and abuse in an 80 acre enclosure.

“The irony is that if any of these animals had been with a travelling circus in the UK they would still be living in small cages on the backs of lorries and subject to systematic abuse.

“This is a poignant reminder of how far the UK – often referred to as a nation of animal lovers - has now fallen behind other countries. Banning animal circuses in the UK remains our top priority and our compelling evidence recorded and submitted to government, with the support from MP’s and the public will help us to achieve our aim.”
Brian Blessed, the revered actor, author, and great supporter of ADI concluded by saying: “It really is time for the government to do the right thing for these circus animals and finally implement a ban.

“We have been sitting on the fence for far too long, the suffering is terrible. We are the guardians of this planet, so let us follow the example set by the Bolivian Government and its wonderful President, then the whole of Europe will follow us. It is unbelievable that wild animal circuses still exist in the UK and now is the time for the government to legislate.

“I would urge everyone who is interested in animal welfare to get behind ADI’s campaign and help put a stop, once and for all, to the draconian and humiliating spectacle of wild animals in circuses.”

ADI has put together a video which depicts the random abuse of wild animals in several UK circuses over the last fifteen years which can be viewed at:, under the heading ‘Self Regulation, Are They Serious?’ and are urging the Minister to watch the video as part of his deliberations.


More photographs and VNR footage are available from the various ADI circus investigations. Interview opportunities are available on request.

Contact:Phil Buckley, Media Relations Director, Animal Defenders International,, 020 7630 3344, 07716 018250

ADI received a letter from The General Election Response Team for Nick Clegg MP, now Deputy Prime Minister in May 2010 which stated: ‘Keeping animals in circuses has been known to lead to poorer welfare due to the travelling and harsh training regimes. The barren trailers and temporary enclosures do not and cannot provide wild animals with their needs […] Liberal Democrats are therefore committed to prohibiting the use of all animals in circuses except domestic dogs and horses.’

Dods Monitoring polled 100 MPs from Tuesday 4th January – Friday 28th January via online and paper polling. The question asked was: “The Government should ban the use of wild animals in circuses rather than let the industry self-regulate their welfare.” To what extent do you agree with this statement? The poll found that 63% of MPs Agreed or Strongly Agreed with this statement. Of the 100 MPs who were polled on this issue 14% Disagreed or Strongly Disagreed and 6% did not respond.

National measures to prohibit or limit the use of animals in circuses have already been adopted in Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Singapore, Costa Rica, India and Israel and similar laws are being discussed in Brazil, Chile, Peru and Greece.

ADI’s evidence from the Great British Circus clearly depicts circus elephants chained up in small pens for hours every day, being beaten with metal hooks, brooms and pitchforks in the name of entertainment and being shut up and transported for long periods of time.

Their investigation shows how animals like elephants suffer in the travelling circus and how the use of animals in circuses cannot be justified.

The expose included footage of lions and tigers struck with metal bars about the body or in the face and the elephant keeper repeatedly attacking the elephants using chains, shovels, pitchforks and metal bars and his frenzied attacks involved up to 32 blows to the face of a helpless chained elephant.

Mary Chipperfield and her husband Roger Cawley were filmed hitting elephants across the face with various weapons including whips, pitchforks and buckets. Both hit camels about the head, face and body and Mary Chipperfield thrashed and kicked an infant chimp called Trudy.

Acting on ADI evidence, the police charged the elephant keeper Michael Stephen Gills who pleaded guilty to all charges and was jailed for four months and banned from working with animals for five years and Mary Chipperfield was found guilty on twelve counts of cruelty relating to Trudy, and Roger Cawley guilty on one count.

Animal Defenders International (ADI)

With offices in London, Los Angeles, and Bogota Animal Defenders International (ADI) is a major international campaigning group, lobbying to protect animals on issues such as animals in entertainment and their use in experiments; worldwide traffic in endangered species; vegetarianism; factory farming; pollution and conservation. ADI involves itself in international animal rescues as well as educational work on animals, conservation and environment. Founded in 1990, ADI has become a major force for animal protection and has succeeded through its undercover investigations in securing legal protection for animals. ADI opposes violence or intimidation whether directed at humans or other animals.


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