Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Coalition Government on the ropes with wild animals in circuses ban

Posted: 25 May 2011

Revelation that Ministers were aware that a ban could be implemented without primary legislation

Defra Minister Jim Paice’s comments last week during the Commons Debate on wild animals in circuses, in which he stated a ban would require primary legislation, seem to be at odds with previous legal advice received by Defra, says Animal Defenders International (ADI).

ADI has written confirmation from Defra officials from 2009 that indicates that the previous Government received legal advice that indicated that it was possible to introduce a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses through delegated legislation under the auspices of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and chose to proceed with a public consultation on this basis. This information aligns with ADI’s legal advice which was also provided to Government at the time.

ADI’s announcement coincides with the tabling of a new parliamentary motion (EDM 1860) tabled by Gavin Shucker and Caroline Lucas MP regretting Defra’s handling of the policy of wild animals in circuses and urging the Government to use its powers to introduce a ban without further delay under the Animal Welfare Act.

Jan Creamer, Chief Executive of Animal Defenders International said: “Our information suggests that the previous Government knew full well that a ban was entirely feasible under the Act, and implemented a public consultation to gauge the public mood. As a result, 94.5% of the public voted for a ban, making it abundantly clear that they oppose regulation. Clearly, the current Government has therefore ignored the advice of colleagues, civil servants and advisers, and the will of the public.

“It is a travesty of protocol, procedure and common sense that they are still looking at a licensing regime for the industry, which flies in the face of public and political opinion, is the most costly option, and will do nothing to address animal protection and welfare.

“The Coalition Government has once again fallen woefully short in their handling of this matter and has failed, once again, to communicate the facts correctly. We are seriously concerned regarding their competence and this situation is now falling into farce.

“We request that our supporters and members of the public contact their local MP’s to request that they sign and support the EDM, so that we can make this ban a reality – once and for all.”

Last week, ADI uncovered that there was no Austrian legal challenge in the courts, cited by Government as a primary reason not to ban, so paving the way for a ban to be implemented. A Commons Debate was hastily arranged as a result of this discovery, and the Minister was put firmly on the spot to explain the error and admitted that comments made regarding the legal case were incorrect. However, it now appears that another error has occurred.

UK taxpayers will have to bear the costs of enforcement and inspection of Government’s proposed system that include a bill of up to £11.500.00 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.

The route chosen by Government to license the industry is the most expensive option and will not address animal welfare. The option of a ban is both cheaper and more effective in terms of animal protection.

Tim Phillips, ADI’s Campaigns Director said: “Due to ADI’s recent expose at the winter quarters of Bobby Roberts Super Circus, which showed appalling abuse of Anne the elephant and Monty the camel and led to a public outcry, we are encouraged that both Anne and Monty have now been rescued and rehomed.

“However, after 20 years of undercover investigations we have consistently shown that the brutality inflicted on animals is part of circus culture, and we can guarantee that without a ban this abuse will continue, and it will be the Government’s fault.

“Regulation for the industry is unworkable and animals will continue to suffer, like they have always done, away from the public eye and when the inspectors aren’t due to be visiting.”

ADI is in the process of drafting a series of legal briefings for politicians to keep the pressure up on the Government to do the right thing for animal welfare and 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.

Extract from Commons Debate, 19 May 2011 : Column 499

Mr Paice: My hon. Friend rightly reminds us that the real issue is the welfare of animals in circuses. That is why our policy remains as it was clearly announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on Friday. A strict licensing regime has the potential to reduce or eliminate the use of wild animals in circuses if the owners cannot meet the tough standards that we will require, on which we will consult. That can be done quickly, whereas a ban would require primary legislation—and we are all well aware of the time scale that involves.

An email received by ADI from Defra civil servants in December 2009 stated that ‘Our legal team believe that it is possible to introduce a ban under the auspices of the Animal Welfare Act….’ and (Ministers) ‘have chosen to proceed with a consultation on the basis that it is the opinion of our legal team that it is possible.’

EDM 1860 provides: “That this House regrets the failure of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to ban the use of wild animals in circuses; further regrets the Secretary of State’s statement to the House with regard to an Austrian court case which does not exist; regrets that Ministers are using a potential court case in Austria not to implement a ban on wild animals in circuses in the UK; questions Ministers’ use of the Human Rights Act when the Department’s own impact assessment on a ban states that there are no concerns; holds that the Government’s proposed licensing scheme will fail adequately to protect the welfare of wild animals; notes that 94.5 per cent. of respondents to the previous administration’s public consultation support a ban, as well as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the British Veterinary Association, the Born Free Foundation and Animal Defenders International; welcomes The Independent newspaper’s petition calling for a ban which has attracted over 22,000 signatures; and urges the Government to use its powers under section 12 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to introduce a regulation banning the use of all wild animals in circuses without further delay.” The primary sponsor of the motion is Gavin Shucker and it is co-sponsored by Bill Esterson, Kate Green, Cathy Jamieson, Caroline Lucas and Sandra Osborne.

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.

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.

Last week, Animal Defenders International contacted all MPs to muster further support for a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses, asking them to sign EDM 403 which calls for a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses and already has 196 signatories, and to write directly to the Minister to bring further pressure to bear. To download a copy of ADI’s briefing sent today to MP’s please go to:

In 2009 at the Great British Circus (GBC), ADI filmed frightened, stressed elephants being brutally hit in the face with elephant metal hooks, brooms and pitchforks and the results of the investigation were made public. And the GBC was not an isolated case. In 1998, ADI field officers worked undercover inside three circus establishments run by different members of the Chipperfield family and this investigation led to successful convictions for cruelty to animals of Mary Chipperfield and her husband Roger, jail for their elephant keeper Michael Gills, and subsequent closure of all three circus enterprises in the UK. Earlier this year ADI brought to the world the shocking abuse inflicted on Anne the elephant at Bobby Roberts Super Circus.

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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