Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Animal Defenders International Slams Coalition Government weakness over circus regulation decision

Posted: 13 May 2011. Updated: 13 May 2011

Proposals really are a ‘toothless tiger’

The Coalition Government’s announcement today that it will not be banning the use of wild animals in circuses due to a legal challenge involving the Austrian Government, and therefore opting for a licensing regime is costly, will not address animal welfare, and completely contradicts the will of the public, says Animal Defenders International (ADI).

Government has claimed that the Austrian Government has recently been taken to court for its “attempt” to ban wild animals in circuses and they are therefore loathe to legislate. The Austrian ban has been firmly in place for over 6 years and other European countries such as Denmark have implemented similar bans without challenge. Countries such as Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Portugal and Sweden all have similar legislation with restrictions.

Jan Creamer, Chief Executive of ADI said: “The government’s reason given for not banning is misleading, they have gone for the most expensive option, and their decision flies in the face of public opinion. Nearly three quarters of the British public recently voted overwhelmingly in independent polls for a ban, making it abundantly clear that they oppose regulation.
“To add insult to injury the government is now asking the taxpayer to bear the brunt of the costs and pay for the privilege of enforcement which will do little to actually protect animals from suffering. The option of a ban is both cheaper and more effective in terms of animal protection. This is a complete whitewash.
“They have hidden behind this legal case and have misjudged the public mood. These proposals really are a toothless tiger and government should hang its head in shame. People will be outraged, and animals will suffer.”

The proposals will do nothing to protect wild animals currently languishing in circuses; inspectors will be unable to enforce any orders they give because the circuses are constantly on the move; they will not see what goes on behind the scenes and a lot of public money will be spent chasing circuses in an attempt to control them. These poor animals will still have to endure constant travel, long journeys and a substantial amount of time in collapsible and lightweight facilities.

Training and random abuse will continue to take place behind closed doors, and the industry will continue to employ unqualified workers and a variety of acts from around the world, so it will be impossible to assess their competence.

With the unlimited range of species available to circuses it is difficult to see where the expertise for enforcement would come from for the Government inspectors, who will have to be trained in all wild animal species and have constant retraining every time a new exotic animal is imported into the country.

Tim Phillips, ADI’s Campaigns Director said: “Worldwide, there is currently no system of regulation which is effective in protecting circus animals and this decision is a shameful dereliction of the government’s duty, is completely at odds with public and parliamentary will, and we are astounded that the UK Government has found such a weak excuse not to ban animals in circuses.
“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. This is an extremely sad day for UK animal welfare and protection."

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 was 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.

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.
UK taxpayers will have to bear the costs of enforcement and inspection of this system that include a bill of up to £11.5K per year to fund annual inspections for only 4 circuses still using wild animals. That is £960 per inspection, despite the fact that the British public overwhelmingly opposes regulation. These figures are likely to rise as the number of circuses using wild animals increase in the UK.

Defra’s decision also contradicts the current Government’s cuts on public spending. If the Government had opted for an outright ban this would have been the cheapest option.
The Commission made clear in 2006 that: "Under the principle of subsidiarity, welfare concerns regarding circus animals can better be addressed by national legislation in accordance with the general provisions of the Treaty." As far back as 2002, when the Commission was asked about animals in circuses, stated that "the decision whether to ban animal performances at such events or to define under which welfare conditions they should be accepted remains a matter under the sole responsibility of the Member States."
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 go 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 Commission replying to parliamentary questions stated that the decision whether or not to ban was at the discretion of each member state.
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: here

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

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.

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