Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

A new excuse from government regarding the wild animal circus ban

Posted: 25 January 2012. Updated: 25 January 2012

‘Defra’s preposterous circus of excuses continues’

Animal Defenders International (ADI) has accused the government of desperation and contradiction over its continued attempts to block a ban on wild animals in circuses, after Defra recently launched a raft of new excuses for avoiding a ban in a letter to an ADI supporter.

Initially, Defra tried to hide behind the threat of an Austrian legal challenge, but when the ban was upheld by the Austrian Constitutional Court in December, Defra is now subsequently trying to claim that this decision may be of limited relevance to the UK’s position with regard to the wild animals in circus ban - a ban supported overwhelmingly by public and parliament.

Jan Creamer, ADI’s Chief Executive said: “In a letter to one of our supporters, Defra has finally admitted that the ban in Austria has been upheld, which effectively clears the way for a UK ban. However, inexplicably, government is now claiming that the Austrian case ‘may have limited relevance to England’s position, and the risk of a successful legal challenge to any ban introduced in England remains high.’

“So, Defra initially hid behind this challenge as a reason not to ban, and because it was defeated is now claiming it to be potentially irrelevant. This position would be laughable if there were not such serious animal welfare implications. Defra appears not only incapable of listening, but increasingly desperate. This government has totally isolated itself from the opinion and will of the nation and is doing everything in its power not to ban.”

Last May, Defra minister Jim Paice announced to the House of Commons that a UK ban might invite a legal challenge from Europe (citing Austria), or that it might be challenged under the European Services Directive and/or the Human Rights Act. These arguments have subsequently been crushed, but still Defra looks for reasons not to implement a ban, contradicting itself along the way.

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 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

In an email response to a query from an ADI supporter regarding circus animals on the 23 January 2012 Defra wrote: “Legal advice remains that without either new evidence of irremediable welfare problems or of a clear rational ethical argument (that would not take in other animals), a ban on performing animals in travelling circuses us(sic) highly vulnerable on legal grounds”. On the matter of Austria (the challenge to Austria’s ban having been thrown out) Defra now insists: “the Austrian case may have limited relevance to England’s position, and the risk of a successful legal challenge to any ban introduced in England remains high.”

ADI has been working with a group of committed MPs to bring pressure to bear on the government to enact an outright ban, and seventeen parliamentary questions have been tabled in December and January, followed by two further EDMs This brings their total number of Parliamentary Questions on animal circuses during November, December and January to over thirty.

The first, EDM 2563, reminds the Government that urgent action is needed and demands a ban, in accordance with the will of parliament and public. The second EDM, 2586, demands that the Government release veterinary inspection reports on circuses, which have been repeatedly denied to ADI, despite freedom of information requests. These reports are clearly a matter of public interest, since they form part of Defra’s information gathering for their proposed licensing regime. Go to:

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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