Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

New Wild Animal Circus Ban EDM tabled highlighting Defra lethargy

Posted: 18 January 2012. Updated: 18 January 2012

‘Momentum maintained as government continues to fail to act’

A group of cross-party MPs has launched an Early Day Motion (EDM 2586) in Parliament to pressurise the Government to release Defra inspection reports on animal circuses. Defra has refused a series of freedom of information requests by Animal Defenders International (ADI) for access to government inspection reports on circuses conducted in 2008 and 2009 by Defra appointed vets. ADI argues that if Defra persists with plans to regulate the use of wild animals in circuses, despite public and parliamentary opposition, then Government welfare reports must not remain secret.

The Government continues to drag its feet over enacting an outright ban, which has received support from over 94% of the public, and an overwhelming vote in Parliament’s Backbencher’s Committee.

This motion follows the news in December that the legal challenge to Austria’s ban on the use of wild animals in circuses, cited by ministers as the reason that the UK could not bring in a ban, had been dismissed by the Austrian courts. It supports another EDM tabled last week (EDM 2563), which urges the Government to implement the ban.

This new motion, primarily sponsored by MP Caroline Lucas (Green, Brighton Pavilion and Vice Chair of the Animal Welfare APPG) and supported by MPs Adrian Sanders (LibDem, Torbay), Peter Bottomley (Conservative, Worthing West) and Mark Durkan (SDLP, Foyle) calls on the government to give access to these reports, and listen to the will of the nation and enact an outright ban.

Caroline Lucas said: “We are deeply concerned at the government’s decision to withhold access to the inspection reports on circuses. These reports are likely to be used to inform the new proposals on a licensing system on the use of wild animals in circuses, so efforts to prevent fair and transparent access to this information are a serious impediment to proper parliamentary scrutiny and public debate. We are therefore calling on the government to release this information immediately.

“Furthermore, by refusing to enact an outright ban on the use of wild animals in UK circuses, Ministers are effectively condoning the unacceptable abuse of animals - and totally ignoring public opinion.”

Jan Creamer, Chief Executive of ADI said: “This country has voted overwhelmingly for a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses, but Defra continues to progress with a system of licensing instead, while repeatedly denying access to these crucial reports.

“These reports are vital to inform any decisions made about licensing proposals and the refusal to allow access prevents concerned stakeholders and independent experts from reviewing the scope, criteria used and overall quality of the inspections. So, public confidence in the system will be undermined.”

Government’s arguments for keeping the reports secret are weak – they have cited confidentiality, health and safety, and even the extraordinary conclusion that the reports could potentially invite attacks against circus operators – yet the evidence they cite is from newspaper articles published many weeks after their decision was made.

Adrian Sanders, Liberal Democrat MP for Torbay said: “The country has made it abundantly clear that it would like to see a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses, but the government continues to put blockers in the way.
“This latest attempt by Defra to prevent us getting to the bottom of what is contained in these reports is farcical. This information is clearly in the public interest and needs to be released as soon as possible. What have they got to hide?”

Mark Durkan, Social Democratic and Labour MP for Foyle, Northern Ireland said: “In the interests of transparency, Defra needs to allow access to these inspection reports so we can see specifically what protocols and procedures were followed by the Defra appointed vets. The contents of these reports are very important and are in the public interest, especially as the public has voted so overwhelmingly for an outright ban.

“The sooner that the government listens to the considered popular will the better - not least for the wild animals currently languishing in their winter quarters.”

In recent weeks, MPs Fiona O’Donnell, Caroline Lucas, Gavin Shuker, Adrian Sanders and Bob Russell have all asked parliamentary questions in an attempt to obtain access to these reports but the Minister Jim Paice MP continues to resist.

Other parliamentary questions are now being tabled by other supportive MPs regarding the Austrian challenge having now been removed so the road to a ban has been cleared, to maintain the pressure on Defra. ADI is grateful to all of those politicians who are standing firmly behind their ‘Stop Circus Suffering’ campaign.

This activity follows the House of Commons backbench debate in June 2011, where MPs unanimously approved a motion directing the government to ban the use of wild animals in circuses by July 2012. Shortly after the Prime Minister was quoted as saying that he was ‘minded’ to ban.


Notes to Editors

EDM 2586 Wording:

Inspection reports on circus establishments:

That this House notes with concern the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) decision to withhold access to the inspection reports on circus establishments carried out by DEFRA-appointed staff from the House and from Animal Defenders International; believes that these reports are being used by DEFRA to inform the new proposals on a licensing system on the use of wild animals in circuses; further notes with concern that the Government’s refusal to allow access to this critical information prevents Parliamentary scrutiny and open public debate involving all stakeholders; and calls on the Government to release this information immediately.”

Austrian Court Challenge:

In December the Austrian Constitutional Court in Vienna announced that it had thrown out the application by Circus Krone to overturn Austria’s ban on wild animals in circuses.

The Government had claimed earlier this year that there were legal impediments to a ban, and cited the upcoming Krone case – even before it had been lodged.

The Austrian Court told ADI that it: “could not find that such a ban would encroach on the applicant’s right “to practice every kind of gainful activity” guaranteed by the Basic Law of 21 December 1867 on the General Rights of Nationals in the Kingdoms and Länder represented in the Council of the Realm. Though the ban was interfering with this right, this interference was based on public interest (namely the protection of the animals) and both necessary and appropriate for the legislator to reach this goal. Thus the interference with the applicant’s right was justified and proportional.”
Decision on, G 74/11, V 63/11, taken on December 1, 2011 can be viewed at:

Opinion Poll votes finds 72% support a ban:

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.

Defra Public Consultation votes for a ban:

In 2010, Defra announced the results of their 2009 public consultation on animal circuses, which resulted in a huge 94.5% public support for a ban.

Animal Circus Bans Worldwide:

National measures to prohibit or limit the use of animals in circuses have already been adopted in Bolivia, Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Peru, Portugal, Sweden, Singapore, Costa Rica, India and Israel and similar laws are being discussed in Brazil, Chile, `Colombia and Greece.

‘Out of Control’ report:

ADI has recently released previously unpublished evidence of the failure of inspections to detect animal suffering in circuses. The ‘Out of Control’ report provides clear evidence that an inspection system is doomed to failure. The lack of access to previous inspection reports confirms that a statutory licensing system that lacks transparency and accountability will perpetuate the suffering of wild animals and will also fail. View the report here

Inspections would not have saved Anne at Bobby Roberts’ Super Circus:

An ADI investigation into the winter quarters of Bobby Roberts Super Circus last year revealed a staggeringly high level of violence and serious animal husbandry flaws. Over a two-week period, 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 by workers, who are also seen beating and spitting on a camel and beating miniature ponies and horses on numerous occasions.

At the request of ADI, and given enormous public concern over the case, the Director of Public Prosecutions has agreed that the Crown Prosecution Service take over proceedings with the case to be heard in June 2012.

Inspections would not have uncovered abuse of elephants at Great British Circus:

In 2009 ADI released undercover footage of the use of elephants at the Great British Circus and this exposé put wild animals in circuses back on the political agenda. This evidence was presented to the Government and a public consultation on animal circuses followed, in December 2009. The footage can be found at the following link:

Media Contact:
Phil Buckley
Media Relations Director
Animal Defenders International
07716 018250, 0207 7630 3344

Animal Defenders International
With offices in Los Angeles, London and Bogota, ADI campaigns across the globe on animals in entertainment, providing technical advice to governments, securing progressive animal protection legislation, drafting regulations and rescuing animals in distress. ADI has a worldwide reputation for providing video and photographic evidence exposing the behind-the-scenes suffering in industry and supporting this evidence with scientific research on captive wildlife and transport. ADI rescues animals all over the world, educates the public on animals and environmental issues.


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