Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

European Commission tells the UK to face up to its responsibility on wild animals in circuses

Posted: 3 June 2011

A further obstacle removed for Government to implement outright ban.

The European Commission has officially informed the European Parliament that circus animals are the responsibility of individual member states and that there is currently no protection for circus animals under European law.

In a written answer by Mr Potocnik, the Commission stated yesterday that: “Circuses are specifically excluded from the scope of the Zoos Directive, and are not covered by any other EU legislation. Therefore, the welfare of circus animals remains the responsibility of the Member States.”

Animal Defenders International (ADI) says this declaration provides conclusive proof that there is no EU framework for protecting circus animals and that the Commission has specifically declared that the decision for a ban or implementation of welfare codes is at the discretion of individual member states.

Jan Creamer, ADI’s Chief Executive said: “This announcement reaffirms the Commission’s position who had already stated that banning the use of wild animals in circuses is left to the discretion of member states.

“The Government has claimed that a ban might be illegal under EU law, but the Commission have obviously been somewhat bemused by this statement and taken the opportunity to set the record straight – once and for all. It has now been made abundantly clear that the EU has no jurisdiction, and that the UK Government needs to deal with this issue alone, rather than trying to hide behind Brussels or Strasbourg.

“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, and this situation is descending into further farce. Both the UK and Scottish Parliaments will be debating the issue of wild animals in circuses next week and this EU response will bring further pressure to bear on the Government during this critical time. “

This information follows ADI’s announcement yesterday that it 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, 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.

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.

“We have now 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. Now the Commission has entered the fray and confirmed that the decision whether or not to ban is outside of its jurisdiction, and always has been.

“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.”

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.



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

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Source: European parliament register
Subject: Answer to written question on circus animal welfare
Date published: June 2 2011

Question for written answer E-004427/2011 to the Commission Rule 117 Graham Watson (ALDE)

Subject: Circus animal welfare

What is the Commission doing to enforce animal welfare standards in European zoos and circuses?

E-004427/2011 Answer given by Mr Potočnik on behalf of the Commission

The Zoos Directive (Council Directive 1999/22/EC)[1] <#_ftn1> was adopted with the objective of promoting wild animal species protection and conservation by strengthening the role of zoos in the conservation of biodiversity. This is to be achieved by Member States adopting measures for the licensing and inspection of zoos in order to ensure that zoos respect the foreseen conservation and protection measures including appropriate accommodation of the animals. The Commission is examining all well founded and substantiated evidence that is brought to its attention in regard to failures of transposition or implementation of the Directive and, if necessary, legal action will be taken against the Member State not respecting the rules. Circuses are specifically excluded from the scope of the Zoos Directive, and are not covered by any other EU legislation. Therefore, the welfare of circus animals remains the responsibility of the Member States.

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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