Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

ADI Circus Campaign gathers momentum

Posted: 20 May 2011. Updated: 20 May 2011

Today, Animal Defenders International has contacted all MPs to muster further support for a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.

They have been asked to sign EDM 403 which calls for a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses and already has 196 signatories, and also to write directly to the Minister to bring further pressure to bear.

This follows the Commons debate on the issue yesterday, which was hastily arranged after ADI uncovered that there was no Austrian legal challenge, so no obstacle in the way for Government to implement a ban.

In the highly charged debate, the Animal Welfare Minister Jim Paice was put under pressure to explain the Government’s position, and admitted that his comments made regarding the legal case were incorrect. He was also ridiculed for suggesting that a ban may be in breach of human rights.

Jan Creamer, Chief Executive of ADI said: “We are pleased that our revelation regarding the non-existent court case led to the Commons Debate yesterday, and that the Government has at least admitted that the initial comments made were incorrect. We are also encouraged that Government were put under intense scrutiny for their error, and decision to press ahead with a licensing regime.

“This decision flies in the face of public and political opinion, and we fully intend to keep up the pressure to force a u turn on their decision. The public want a ban, politicians want a ban, and animal protection organisations want a ban. Government should be reflecting the will of the country and not ignoring it.”

ADI, politicians, veterinary organisations, animal protection groups and celebrities have expressed their grave concerns regarding the Government’s handling of this issue and the declaration that they still seem intent on pressing ahead with the proposals for a licensing regime.

ADI is in the process of researching the comments made by the Minister regarding potential breaches of human rights legislation, and their findings will be released shortly.

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.



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

Photographs are available on request. Interview opportunities are available.

To download a copy of ADI’s briefing sent today to MPs please go to:

The debate can be watched at:

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 late last week. 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 as did the Austrian Embassy.

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 196 MPs 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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