Posted: 1 March 2012. Updated: 1 March 2012
Today’s Defra announcement that animal circuses will be regulated and a ban on wild animals will be delayed indefinitely has been greeted with delight by animal circuses and outrage by MPs and animal protections groups.
A constitutional crisis could be triggered after Defra stated that it would not implement a ban on wild animals in circuses despite an overwhelming vote by back bench MPs last year.
Defra announced: "The Government will seek to introduce primary legislation at the earliest opportunity to achieve its much-stated desire to ban travelling circuses from using performing wild animals." Animal Welfare Minister Lord Taylor said: “There is no place in today’s society for wild animals being used for our entertainment in travelling circuses. Wild animals deserve our respect."
Mark Pritchard MP who led last year’s Commons debate: "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"
Mary Creagh MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, responding to the Defra consultation on licensing wild animals in circuses said:
"Last year Parliament voted unanimously for a ban on wild animals in circuses with the backing of 95% of the public. Defra Ministers showed how out of touch with the public they are and hid behind spurious threats of legal challenges in the EU as an excuse for doing nothing.
"Today, Ministers announce a licensing regime until a ban comes in 2015, saying there is no room on the parliamentary timetable for new legislation. Yet only yesterday they introduced a water bill into the house, which will be passed in 2 days. There is nothing to stop them doing the same thing for circus animals, but it’s clear that animal welfare is way down the list of this Government’s priorities."
Jan Creamer Chief Executive of Animal Defenders International (ADI) said: “It is almost unprecedented for Government to be so cavalier in its disregard for public and Parliamentary opinion. There is absolutely overwhelming evidence of circus suffering and not a single animal welfare body that will defend this industry. This is utter betrayal. To suggest that the public bears the extra cost of an inspection and licensing regime, and then follow up with a ban, is ludicrous.”
Animal Defenders International (ADI), Four Paws, Animal Aid, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), and the BVA (British Veterinary Association) want to see a clear ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
Jan Creamer: “We were promised a ban in 2006. This was followed by consultations, expert examinations, working parties, impact assessments and feasibility studies. The last public consultation gave an overwhelming 95% of public in favour of a ban. Yet Defra wants another consultation. Are they going to keep going until they get the answer they want?”
Before the last election there was a Government commitment for a ban, which evaporated after the General Election. Today, the Coalition Government claimed there would be legislation tabled by 2015, by which time there will either be a new Government or we will be in the throws of the election. And this Government will be directly responsible for all of the animal suffering that they have chosen not to end.
Jan Creamer: “This may be the most cynical animal welfare announcement ever made by a Government, I believe MPs and members of the public will be disgusted. Animal circuses appear to be setting Defra’s agenda. It is certainly not being set by public or MPs.”
Freedom of Information requests from ADI and Parliamentary questions from MPs requesting details of Defra circus inspections and negotiations have so far been blocked.
Yet the circus industry spokesperson, Chris Baltrop, today claimed that Defra had conducted secret inspections of circuses and pronounced them to have a “clean bill of health”.
See ADI’s report Out of Control highlighting why licensing will not protect animals – examples of sick animals being hidden from inspectors; of inspectors missing husbandry deficits; Anne the elephant, whose suffering would not have been picked up on an inspection.
Click here to read the Out of Control report.
Notes to Editors
Angie Greenaway and Phil Buckley
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