Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

ADI’s legal advice: circus ban would not breach Human Rights Act or European Services Directive

Posted: 2 June 2011. Updated: 2 June 2011

No obstacles left in way for Government to implement outright ban.

Animal Defenders International (ADI) has received expert legal advice stating that an outright ban on the use of wild animals in circuses would not breach the Human Rights Act or the EU Services Directive, once again paving the way for the Coalition Government to implement a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses without further delay.

ADI’s latest announcement follows their statement last week that Defra officials had indicated in 2009 that it was possible to introduce a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses under the auspices of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The week previously ADI had exposed the Government as being incorrect by uncovering that there was no Austrian legal challenge in the courts, cited by the Government as a primary reason not to ban.

Jan Creamer, Chief Executive of ADI said: “We have proved conclusively that there is no Austrian legal challenge, no need for new legislation and that a ban would not breach the Human Rights Act nor the EU Services Directive.

“Once again, ministers have been found wanting and we have proved the Coalition Government to be incorrect, legally and factually. Every obstacle they have put in the way to prevent an outright ban has now been knocked down. The government needs to stop looking for excuses and bring in a ban. 95% of the public wants a ban, parliament wants a ban, it is therefore in the public interest to bring in a ban.”

Knocked out: Human Rights Act

Last week, lawyers instructed by ADI analysed if a ban could potentially affect a person’s right to respect for private and family life under the UK’s Human Rights Act (HRA) (article 8) and the protection for property (article 1 of protocol 1 HRA). The advice concluded that a ban would be within the ‘margin of appreciation’ afforded to the UK.

Furthermore, the legal advice is that if a ban is proposed because it is considered ethically wrong in itself to use wild animals in circuses, a ban would be the only measure which would achieve this public interest aim and would be automatically proportionate. Therefore, the ban would not be in breach of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights

Knocked out: EU Services Directive

In addition, it was concluded that the UK would not be in contravention of the EU Services Directive by implementing national legislation which banned the use of wild animals in circuses and it would not be unlawful under EU law generally.

The European Court of Justice would accord a Member State a wide degree of discretion in this matter and since 2002 the European Commission has reiterated that the decision would be at the discretion of the individual Member State, and they would not wish to become involved.

Tim Phillips, ADI’s Campaigns Director said: “ADI’s recent exposé at the winter quarters of Bobby Roberts’ Super Circus, which showed the appalling abuse of Anne the elephant and Monty the camel and led to a worldwide public outcry, has provided the Government with the perfect opportunity to ban the use of wild animals in circuses.

“However, the Coalition Government seems to be going to great lengths to place obstacles in the way and create smoke screens. What is becoming clear to us is their decision not to ban and subsequent actions continues to undermine their position, which is becoming increasingly untenable and the pressure is not subsiding. The Government ignores the will of the UK public at its peril, and may soon discover this to their detriment.”

Earlier this week ADI and other animal protection groups including Animal Aid, BVA, PETA, WSPA and RSPCA sent a joint open letter to the Prime Minister, requesting that he rethinks his Government’s current position.

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 morally and ethically – wild animals do not belong in travelling circuses.



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

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ADI instructed Bircham Dyson Bell (, leading Solicitors and Parliamentary Agents, to research the conformity of a ban on wild animals in circuses with the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Union Services Directive.

Last year, a survey by Defra (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) resulted in a huge 94.5% public support for a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.

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 is cross-party support for a ban, 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 Parliamentary poll for 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, the Government is isolated from its peers.

A new Parliamentary motion (EDM 1860) has been tabled in the Commons 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. A similar EDM has been drafted and is circulating in Scotland.

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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