Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Animal Defenders International Slams Coalition Government weakness over animal protection

Posted: 12 May 2011. Updated: 12 May 2011

Coalition Government dooms performing animals to a life of brutality and suffering by hiding behind the EU

The Coalition Government’s suggestion that it will not be banning the use of wild animals in circuses due to a current ongoing court case involving Austria is a cowardly cop out and completely contradicts the will of the public, says Animal Defenders International (ADI) .

Government claims that the case refers to a German circus proprietors attempts to challenge the Austrian ban on wild animals in circuses alleging that they are in breach of EU common market rules. The Coalition Government have claimed that they cannot recommend a ban that may not be legal and are awaiting the outcome of this case.

Jan Creamer, Chief Executive of ADI said: “This announcement shows just how out of touch the present Government is with the British public, and how disinterested they are in the protection of animals from suffering. The Commission has already stated as long ago as 2002 that banning animals in circuses is solely the responsibility of individual member states, so this is a complete cop out by UK government. They state that they ‘will be revealing plans and taking tough measures’ and that their ‘proposals will be tough to protect animal welfare ’, but they are hiding behind this legal case, have misinterpreted it, and have misjudged the public mood. People will be outraged. “They have ignored evidence conclusively proving that routine abuse and violence is rife within the UK circus industry, and that the industry cannot self-regulate. We have also provided them with evidence of the strength of public opinion where support for a ban was overwhelming.

“Government has further demonstrated their inconsistency by recently overruling Defra Ministers who had recently been quoted that they were ‘minded’ to ban. This is an extremely sad day for UK animal welfare and protection and the Prime Minister should hang his head in shame. Animals will be beaten and brutalised because of David Cameron.”

Last year, a survey by Defra (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) resulted in a huge 94.5% support for a ban.

This month, ADI released the results of its independent online poll carried out by YouGov, which asked impartial participants aged over 18 to what extent they would support or oppose a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses. A massive 72% of the public backed a ban with only 8% against – almost 3 out 4 members of the public want a ban.

This week a national newspaper released the findings of their independent poll carried out by ComRes earlier this month which reaffirmed that an overwhelming majority of 71% of the public backed a ban.

The releases of these polls couldn’t have come at a worse time for the circus industry, as ADI’s shocking undercover footage revealing the terrible suffering of Anne, the UK’s last circus elephant was broadcasted around the world in March. Many believed Anne would be the last elephant people would see chained and beaten in a British circus, but her plight which captured the public’s heart appears to have meant nothing to David Cameron.

Politically there is cross party support with 189 MP’s from all parties having signed EDM 403 calling for a ban, making this the 9th most signed EDM in Parliament out of 1790 motions tabled. A recent Dods poll by ADI also found overwhelming support for a ban on wild animal acts in the House of Commons with 63% of MPs in favour and 14% against. So as well as ignoring those who voted them into power, they have isolated themselves from their peers.

Tim Phillips, ADI’s Campaigns Director said: “Government has given a green light to animal suffering in the UK and while they continue to pontificate, are showing contempt for animal protection and the British public. There have been more exposés of the brutality of the circus industry in the UK than any country in the world none of which would have been detected or prevented by regulation. Circuses are being given a licence to abuse animals and despite the will of the public we have fallen behind the likes of Bolivia, Austria, Portugal, Costa Rica and others in terms of animal protection..”

Commenting on the Government’s decision, Caroline Lucas, Leader of the Green Party and MP for Brighton Pavilion said: “By allowing the use of wild animals to continue in UK circuses, the Government is effectively condoning the unacceptable abuse of animals and totally ignoring public opinion. We should be supporting the EU member states that do have a ban, like Austria, Denmark and Croatia by joining them. As we know from the EU bans on seal products and cat and dog fur, the EU will act when a number of member states take a stand. We cannot allow the UK circus industry to regulate itself when we have seen repeatedly that animals suffer from the effects of circus life and commonly endure abuse from handlers and trainers.”

Labour front bencher Gavin Shuker MP for Luton South said: “I share Animal Defenders International’s concern that the Government has refused to ban the use of wild animals in circuses. The public overwhelmingly support a ban, and anyone who has seen recent media coverage of the treatment of animals in circuses will understand why. Self-regulation is not an answer: it will fail to adequately protect animals and introduce a costly burden on the taxpayer. As a party we are calling on Caroline Spelman and her DEFRA team to implement what they know to be right – namely a comprehensive ban”.

John Thurso Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross said: “There is overwhelming public support for a ban on wild animals in circuses and the 189 signatories of EDM 403 represent the political feeling on the subject. Animals in circuses need more protection than the Animal Welfare Act 2006 can provide as demonstrated by ADI with the recent abuse of Annie the elephant and numerous other examples of suffering in the circus industry. The government has the power under section 12 of the act to ban and they should take full advantage of this.”

Members of the UK Parliament and members of the European Parliament have also expressed their dismay on this announcement. Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England said: "The UK is known throughout Europe as a nation of animal lovers and we should therefore be leading the way in Europe by introducing a ban on the use of any animal in circuses. European countries, such as Austria and Denmark have already banned the cruel use of wild animals in circuses. We must go one better and ban all animals, with no exceptions. In this day and age it can hardly be called ‘entertainment’ to watch an animal performing tricks, knowing that it is enduring constant travel, loud crowds and small enclosures. The European Commission has made it clear that a ban on circus animals is the sole responsibility of Member States. The UK Government must act decisively to put an end to this outdated practice, and introduce a ban on circus animals."

And Brian Blessed, the revered actor, author, and great supporter of ADI said: “I am very upset and appalled by Government’s decision. We presented them with strong evidence, Animal organisations wanted it, the public wanted it, as did politicians. The country has been ignored and this is a national disgrace. “

ADI has proved time and time again that the random abuse of wild animals in circuses is endemic to the industry, and the industry simply cannot be trusted to regulate itself. For further information click here

Government should be in no doubt that ADI will not rest until the appalling, demeaning spectacle of the use of wild animals in circuses is eradicated from the UK. Only then can the UK claim to be a nation of animal lovers and a world leader in animal protection.

Photographs are available on request. Interview opportunities are available.
Media Contact:
Phil Buckley, Media Relations Director, Animal Defenders International, 07716 018250, 0207 630 3344,
For further information regarding the European Commission’s position on animals in circuses click here

The You Gov Poll: Nearly 2,000 Great British adults were asked “To what extent would you support or oppose the Government banning the use of wild animals in circuses?” A massive 72% of those polled said they would support a ban with only 8% against. The YouGov poll is completely impartial, with panellists selected at random from a base sample, so these results gave a clear indication of the public’s mood, and are therefore condemning for the circus industry.
The results of the independent poll compare favourably with the responses to Defra’s public consultation where 94.5% of respondents backed a wild animal ban.

ADI is generally credited with shutting down most of the UK animal circuses following a massive undercover investigation leading to the convictions for cruelty of Mary Chipperfield and others – the only circus cruelty convictions in the UK. ADI’s exposé of the horrific abuse of elephants at the Great British Circus put wild animals in circuses back on the political agenda, and their evidence was presented to Government which helped prompt a public consultation on animal circuses in December 2009. The distressing evidence can be found at the following link:

Last month Anne, the last elephant with a British circus, was removed from Bobby Roberts Circus after ADI filmed the horrific abuse of the old elephant in the circus winter quarters. Watch the video here

ADI has continued to undertake dramatic undercover investigations of animal circuses throughout Europe, South America and the USA.
National measures to prohibit or limit the use of animals in circuses have already been adopted in Bolivia, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden, Singapore, Costa Rica, India and Israel and similar laws are being discussed in Brazil, Chile, Norway, Peru and Greece.

Dods Monitoring polled 100 MPs from Tuesday 4th January – Friday 28th January 2011 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.

© Animal Defenders International 2019