Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Government defies public opinion on animal circuses

Posted: 29 February 2012. Updated: 1 March 2012

‘Defra’s public ‘consultation’ on animal circuses slammed’

Government plans to announce (on Thursday 1st March) a consultation on the licensing of wild animals in circuses have been condemned as yet another stalling tactic whilst animals continue to suffer. The move is completely at odds with public opinion; advice of animal protection groups, a vote by MPs last year, and calls from celebrities including Sir Paul McCartney, Alexei Sayle, Brian Blessed, Meg Mathews and Ricky Gervais.

Jan Creamer, Chief Executive of Animal Defenders International, who last year exposed the horrific abuse of Anne the elephant says: “In the last Government consultation 95% of the public called for a ban on wild animal acts, we have had impact assessments and feasibility studies, but it seems to us that the Government will just keep changing the question until they get the answer they want. It is appalling that public and parliamentary wishes are cast aside in such a cavalier manner.”

The move has been condemned by a wide range of animal welfare bodies, including Animal Defenders International (ADI), FourPaws, Animal Aid, PETA, WSPA and the BVA, together with MPs Mark Pritchard (Con), Caroline Lucas (Green), Jeremy Corbyn (Lab), Sir Bob Russell (Lib Dem) and Nic Dakin (Lab) who are urging the Government not to ignore the widespread public and parliamentary support for a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.

For over a decade, MPs have repeatedly supported a ban, through EDMs, votes and parliamentary questions. A 2011 Dods Parliamentary Poll for ADI asked 100 MPs whether the Government should ban the use of wild animals in circuses rather than let the industry self-regulate: 63% of MPs agreed or strongly agreed; 14% disagreed or strongly disagreed; 6% did not respond.

Mark Pritchard MP: “If the government ignore the will of Parliament they will be moving towards a constitutional crisis as well as once again confirming their reputation as being against animal welfare legislation"

Sir Bob Russell MP: "I hope that this is a step forward and not a further example of the prevarication to stop the overwhelming decision of the House of Commons to bring in a total ban as quickly as possible on the use of exotic animals in circuses."
Caroline Lucas, MP: “It’s now overwhelmingly clear that the public and Members of Parliament want a ban on wild animals in circuses - so what is the Government waiting for? It is astonishing that the taxpayer is being asked to foot the bill for a new ‘regulatory regime’ to keep this cruel and outdated practice alive. The simple fact is that circuses are no place for wild animals, and no amount of consultation or self-regulation by the industry is going to change that.

Jeremy Corbyn, MP: “These animals are suffering for no other reason than to amuse people. The public want a ban, MPs want a ban, and there are no compelling social, economic or welfare reasons not to implement a ban.”

Nic Dakin MP: “In this country we have seen numerous incidents over the past ten years, of animals caught on ADI video being viciously beaten in British circuses. Year after year the same shocking scenes like Anne the elephant last year. Enough is enough, it is time for a ban on wild animal acts.”

Following an overwhelming vote in favour of a ban at last June’s Backbenchers’ Committee meeting on the issue, the Prime Minister said that he was ‘minded’ to ban. However, inexplicably, he changed his mind and ministers cited ‘legal obstacles’ to a ban, including a perceived challenge to Austria’s ban, or the European Services Directive or the Human Rights Act. All of these objections have subsequently been dismissed and yet still, the Government refuses to ban.

A ban was first promised during the passage of the Animal Welfare Act in 2006. There followed years of consultations, working parties, impact assessments and feasibility studies. Finally, a Defra public consultation at the end of 2010 resulted in a huge 94.5% of the public in favour of a ban.

Last year, an ADI-commissioned YouGov poll found that 72%, 3 out of 4 members of the public, support a ban. This level of support from the public has been consistent for a decade.

Last month Greece banned all animals in circuses, and a few months before that Peru banned wild animal acts. National measures to prohibit or limit the use of animals in circuses have already been adopted in Bolivia, Croatia, Bosia-Herzegovenia, Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Peru, Portugal, Sweden, Singapore, Costa Rica, India and Israel and similar laws are being discussed in the USA, Brazil, Chile, and Colombia.

Brian Blessed: “Government needs to do the honourable thing and implement a ban as soon as possible to prevent further animal suffering. We have presented them with strong evidence and it is now time for them to get on with it and ban the use of wild animals in circuses – period”

Alexei Sayle: “There are many grey areas in matters of morality - using wild animals in circuses is not one of these grey areas. It is simply and obviously wrong and indefensible. The sooner this blot on a civilised country is eradicated the better it will be for all of us - animals and humans"

Ricky Gervais: “Animal Defenders International’s recent footage of Anne the elephant being beaten graphically displays why the government should ban wild animals in circuses. I am appalled that wild animals are still kept in circuses and fully support the call for a ban. It is high time that government got on and implemented one."

Brian May: “The use of wild animals in circuses is cruel, distasteful and unacceptable in the 21st Century. Our present government is currently backing away from ending this abhorrent practice. We at Save-Me call on David Cameron personally to act now, and take a step towards making Britain worthy of its desired status as a nation of animal lovers. While wild animals still exist in circuses, we remain very far away from that title."

Meg Mathews: “As an advocate of animal welfare, the footage released by ADI of poor Annie the elephant being so cruelly treated made me sick to my stomach. It’s time for this government to stop dragging its heels and finally take action to end the suffering that animals like Anne endure every day in UK circuses.”

Sir Paul McCartney: “I hate to see wild animals in circuses. It is heartbreaking to see these poor animals confined in small cages and carted around the country with no respect for their welfare and well-being. I have made my feelings known previously on this subject and I believe an outright ban is long overdue".

Ann Widdecombe: “It is time for Defra to stop dragging its heels while the rest of the world takes the lead. Wild animals don’t belong in circuses.”

Also, Julia McKenzie, Wendy Turner Webster, Benjamin Zephaniah, Annette Crosbie, John Nettles, Mark Radcliffe and Carol Royle.

Yet, flying in the face of overwhelming public and parliamentary support for a ban, the Government has stubbornly pressed ahead with an attempt to devise an inspection and licensing regime for wild animals in circuses.

There is concern that Defra’s inspection and licensing regime will include secret inspections. The Government has refused to allow access to ADI to their circus inspection reports in 2008 and 2009, and has forced ADI to lodge a Freedom of Information appeal.

ADI and MPs believe that putting the contents of these reports into the public domain would serve the public interest and can provide key information regarding the efficiency of any licensing regime. Refusal to allow access to inspection reports will prevent concerned stakeholders and independent experts from reviewing the scope, criteria used and overall quality of the inspections, and thus public confidence in the system will be undermined.


Notes to Editors

Media Contact:
Angie Greenaway and Phil Buckley
07716 018250, 0207 7630 3344,

ADI has been working with a group of committed MPs to bring pressure to bear on the government to enact an outright ban. Thirty parliamentary questions have been tabled in December and January, followed by two further EDMs.

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:

Opinion Poll votes finds 72% support a ban:
2011, 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.

Polls show growing support for a ban:

  • ComRes poll, 2011, reaffirmed this result, showing an overwhelming majority of 71% of the public backed a ban.
  • A 2011 Dods Parliamentary Poll for ADI asked 100 MPs whether the Government should ban the use of wild animals in circuses rather than let the industry self-regulate: 63% of MPs agreed or strongly agreed; 14% disagreed or strongly disagreed; 6% did not respond.
  • A MORI opinion poll commissioned by ADI in Autumn 2005 shows overwhelming opposition to the use of animals in circuses. The latest in a series of opinion polls showing rising opposition to animals in circuses
  • - 80% say ban all wild animal circus acts
    - 65% say ban all animal circus acts
    - 90% against whipping and beating when training circus animals.
    - Only 7% strongly opposed the calls for bans
  • In 2004 an NOP opinion poll commissioned by ADI found
  • - 63% of the public wanted to see all animal acts banned from circuses
    - only 8% disagreed
  • In 1999, a MORI poll commissioned by ADI found 72% wanted wild animals banned.

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.

Inspections don’t work – ‘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.

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 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 here

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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