Animal Defenders International

 

Animal Defenders International

Government reveals plan to defy backbenchers on wild animal circus ban

Posted: 11 October 2011

Defra urged to respect will of Parliament and put in place a timetable for phasing out wild animals in circuses
The Coalition Government is risking incensing cross-party MPs after dismissing calls to ban the use of wild animals in circuses, and effectively ignoring the Commons Debate and unanimous call for a ban in June, says Animal Defenders International (ADI).
In reply to a Parliamentary Question tabled by Justin Tomlinson, Conservative MP for Swindon, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Caroline Spelman restated the Government’s controversial decision to opt for a licensing system that will allow circuses to continue using wild animals under certain standards, therefore ignoring the will of the House to ban their use before July 2012.
Jan Creamer, ADI Chief Executive said: “We are extremely grateful to Mr Tomlinson whose question has exposed Defra’s undemocratic approach to policy-making. Government has chosen to disregard the decisions made by elected representatives and the UK public alike, and their continued reluctance to act in this matter is baffling.
“Once again we are seeing Defra turning a blind eye not only to the suffering of animals, but to the will of the public, Parliament, and even the Prime Minister, who has gone on record to say that he was ‘minded’ to ban.
“Politicians and the public have voted overwhelmingly in favour for a ban on wild animals in circuses, and it is high time that Defra took action. They are becoming increasingly isolated in this debate, and it’s the poor animals who are continuing to suffer as a consequence.”

Mr Tomlinson MP said: “There is no doubt that the nation would like to see an outright ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
"I therefore strongly urge the Government to introduce a ban rather than a system of licensing to fully prevent animals from languishing in circuses across Britain, as demanded by the public and many MPs."

This latest development comes after a string of unsubstantiated and inaccurate claims made by Defra, with the Minister Caroline Spelman being under constant scrutiny since being appointed over a series of embarrassing U-turns on flagship proposals including the decision not to ban wild animals in circuses.
In a previous Parliamentary debate, Defra Minister Jim Paice MP also had to admit that his department had made inaccurate claims about the legality of a circus ban, having cited a legal challenge in Austria that was exposed by ADI as not being in existence at that time.
The Minister has also claimed that banning wild animals in circuses would be illegal under EU law and may also be in breach of the Human Rights Act. ADI has published expert legal opinion that categorically states that there are no legal obstacles to a ban. Defra has failed to respond to ADI on these points, and has refused to publish the legal advice that it had received to arrive at its flawed decisions.
Tim Phillips, ADI’s Campaigns Director said: “This recent announcement is just the latest in a series of undemocratic manoeuvres from a department ignoring the decisions of Parliament and the opinion of the public, when it should be listening to the will of the country.
“Time and again we have exposed abuse and violence inflicted on these poor animals and still Government fails to address the issue. It is high time that Defra stopped pontificating and now moved to make this ban a reality, and ADI will continue to fight to make this happen.”

An ADI investigation into the winter quarters of Bobby Roberts Super Circus this year revealed a staggeringly high level of violence and serious animal husbandry flaws. Incidents included Anne, an elderly, severely arthritic 57 year old elephant, being hit with a metal pitchfork and kicked around the face and body 48 times over the period of observation by workers, who are also seen beating and spitting on a camel and beating miniature ponies and horses on numerous occasions.

ADI’s exposé of the horrific abuse of elephants at the Great British Circus in 2009 put wild animals in circuses back on the political agenda, and their evidence was presented to Government which helped prompt a public consultation on animal circuses in December 2009.
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, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden, Singapore, Costa Rica, India and Israel and similar laws are being discussed in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Greece.
ENDS
Notes to Editors
Media Contact:

Phil Buckley, Media Relations Director, Animal Defenders International, 07716 018250, 0207 7630 3344, prdesk@ad-international.org
Photographs and footage is available. Interview opportunities are available on request.
Justin Tomlinson MP tabled the Parliamentary Question:
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with reference to the resolution of the House of 23 June, what the timetable is for establishing a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Jim Paice responded:
The Government have listened to the view of the House and are sympathetic to the motion for a ban. We will continue to look carefully at how this could be introduced, but there are unavoidable legal difficulties that cannot be ignored.
The Government have received legal advice that if the Government were to introduce a ban now, it could be challenged in both British and European courts. While we are working towards overcoming these legal obstacles, Ministers will proceed with a very tough licensing regime which will stop circuses from using these wild animals if they do not provide very high welfare standards.

As it would ultimately be taxpayers who would foot the bill for defending a legal challenge, the Government have to verify the legal status of any policy before going ahead as well as listening to the views expressed in the House of Commons debate. Accordingly, work is under way to resolve the legal uncertainties which currently make it difficult to impose a ban as expressed in the Commons resolution.

In June this year, a backbench debate saw over 50 MPs from all of the major parties vote unanimously for a motion tabled by Mark Pritchard MP, calling for an outright ban on the use of wild animals in circuses under the Section 12 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Though not legally binding, the Government is generally understood to have to respect the will of the house.
Earlier this year, 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 therefore wanted a ban.
In 2010, a public consultation by Defra (Department of Enviroment, Food and Rural Affairs) resulted in a huge 94.5% public support for a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
Between 1996 and 1998, ADI field officers worked undercover inside three circus establishments run by different members of the Chipperfield
family: Chipperields’ circus as it toured with animals owned by Dicky Chipperfield; Chipperfield Enterprises the Oxfordshire lion and tiger breeding
centre owned by Dicky Chipperfield; and Mary Chipperfield Promotions, the huge training and animal dealing operation run by Mary Chipperfield in Hampshire.
The investigation released as the Ugliest Show on Earth is credited with bringing the UK’s animal circus industry to its knees. The investigation also featured several other UK circuses and within six months of its release half of the UK’s animal circuses had closed.
About Animal Defenders International (ADI):
With offices in Los Angeles, London and Bogota, Animal Defenders International (ADI) campaigns to protect animals in entertainment; replacement of animals in experiments; worldwide traffic in endangered species; vegetarianism; factory farming; pollution and conservation. ADI also rescues animals in distress worldwide. ADI-gathered evidence has led to campaigns and legislative action all over the world to protect them.


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