Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Government to review legal advice on wild animal circus ban in light of ADI evidence

Posted: 18 May 2011. Updated: 18 May 2011

No Euro block paves way for outright ban

Government’s recent announcement that they are unable to ban the use of wild animals in circuses due to a current legal challenge involving the Austrian Government’s circus ban under EU law has been exposed today as a smoke screen and totally incorrect by Animal Defenders International (ADI).

The revelation comes after ADI made enquiries with the Austrian Constitutional Court and the Court of Justice of the European Union who have jurisdiction in this matter. Both confirmed that there are no pending cases before them involving a challenge against the Austrian ban on wild animals in circuses.

Today, representatives of ADI met with Lord Henley, the Under Secretary of State with animal welfare portfolio, senior Conservative MP’s Neil Parish (Chair of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare) and Mark Pritchard (nominated as Parliamentarian of the Year (2009) for Animal Welfare and Secretary of the 1922 Committee). ADI now demands that a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses be implemented in the UK.

Jan Creamer, Chief Executive of ADI said: “In light of this crucial development ADI is now calling on the Coalition Government to do the right thing for animal welfare and protection.

“We have exposed that there is no current legitimate legal challenge as stated by the Coalition Government and cited as the sole reason why a ban cannot be enacted. We have proven that Government has got its facts woefully wrong and there is no current legal challenge in the Austrian Courts.

“There is nothing to block Government enacting a ban, and they should now get on with what they had been quoted as being ‘minded’ to do when we exposed the shocking abuse of Anne the elephant earlier this year.

“A ban is what the public wants, politicians want, and animal welfare groups want. An outright ban is the only way to stop the random abuse and cruelty being inflicted on wild animals in circuses, and we have paved the way for them to now get on and ban, without further delay.”

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.

The government’s reason given for not banning has now been proven to be flawed, and their decision to opt for a licensing regime 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.

Tim Phillips, ADI’s Campaigns Director said: “It is deeply concerning that the Government could take such a major decision and make an announcement without checking out the full facts first. They hid behind this legal case which was closed in the European Commission in 2006 and by the European Ombusman over a year ago and has not been progressed further through the courts. They have also grossly misjudged the public mood.

“Government needs to admit that a serious error has been made, that their decision was made on incorrect, flawed information, and now do the right thing for animal welfare and protection once and for, and implement a complete ban.

“There have been more exposés of the brutality of the circus industry in the UK than any country in the world. Let us now, once and for all ban the use of wild animals in circuses. Only then can the UK claim to be a nation of animal lovers and a world leader in animal protection.”



Media Contact:
Phil Buckley, Media Relations Director, Animal Defenders International, 07716 018250, 0207 630 3344,

Photographs are available on request. Interview opportunities are available.

ADI contacted the Austrian Constitutional Court, the Austrian Ministry of Environment and the animal protection groups to enquire about the status of the legal action launched at national level. In response to ADI’s enquiries, the Chief of Protocol at the Constitutional Court confirmed in writing on the 16 May 2011 that there was no case pending and no case had ever been brought to the Court by any organisation or individual. It was also confirmed verbally that this court has the monopoly of reviewing any complaints against national legislation. On the 17 May 2011 the Court of Justice of the European Union also confirmed in writing that they could find no reference to such a case. The local Austrian animal protection group VGT responded saying that there were also unaware of the existence of such a case.

Summary of the concluded legal action against the Austrian ban on the use of wild animals in circuses:

Paragraph 27 of the new Austrian Animal Protection Law imposes a total ban on the keeping of wild animals in circuses.

On 2005 a circus association submitted a complaint to the European Commission that said that the provision was contrary to the EU principle of the free movement of services and therefore in breach of EU legislation.
On 12 October 2005, the Commission opened infringement proceedings against Austria.

Subsequently, in a statement made to the public, the Commissioner responsible for the internal market portfolio indicated that the Directorate-General for the Internal Market and Services (DG MARKT) did not intend to pursue the inquiry further.

The formal decision of the Commission closing the case was taken on its meeting of 12 December 2006 and was communicated to the Circus Association.

On 9 June 2006, the Circus Association submitted a complaint to the European Ombudsman. On 7 July 2006, the Ombudsman declared it inadmissible.

On 24 October 2006, the complainant lodged a new complaint to the Ombudsman.

On 8 March 2010 the Ombudsman closed the inquiry concluding that “no further inquiries are justified as regards the complainant’s claims that the Commission should re-examine the infringement complaint in question” and that the complainant had launched an action before the Austrian courts challenging the compatibility of the Austrian law with EU law. This has now been proven not to have in fact occurred.
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.”

For further information regarding the European Commission’s position on animals in circuses go to:
Extract taken from Written Ministerial Statement from The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Caroline Spelman (13 May):
The Austrian Government has recently been taken to court for its attempt to ban wild animals in circuses. This Government wants to take action as soon as possible to protect wild animals in circuses without waiting for the outcome of that judgement. For this reason we propose to introduce a strict licensing regime using powers provided under the 2006 Act.
On the 12 May when the matter was discussed in the Commons, in response to questioning Mrs Spelman said: “The fact is…there is a court case under way where the Austrian Government has been taken to court by a German circus company because of a breach of the European Union services directive. It would be irresponsible for any government to recommend something that is presently under legal dispute.”
Agriculture Minister Jim Paice said: “Whether we like it or not, there is the court case going on in Europe and therefore the British Government could not bring forward a proposal which may prove shortly to be unlawful. Our Government can hardly recommend something that may not be legal.”
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.

Last 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 194 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.

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.


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