Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Plans to license wild animal circuses in the hands of the Lords

Posted: 23 October 2012. Updated: 7 July 2014

On Wednesday, 24 October, the draft regulations for the licensing of wild animals in circuses will be discussed at a Grand Committee in the House of Lords. The debate will provide peers with the opportunity to review the proposed legislation and decide whether it is robust enough to serve its purpose.

Animal Defenders International (ADI) believes that the regulations are unworkable, ineffective and will not safeguard the welfare of wild animals in circuses. For example, licensing would not have prevented:

  • The terrible violence inflicted on Anne the elephant at the winter quarters of Bobby Roberts Super Circus in 2011. Anne’s owners are charged with three offences under the Animal Welfare Act, the trial for which will take place next month.
  • The suffering of the three elephants that toured with the Great British Circus in 2009, whose chaining overnight was not spotted by RSPCA and local officials (and which the circus lied to the House of Commons about). One of the elephants, Delhi, was “chronically and obviously lame”, but the seriousness of her health issues were not picked up during early inspections and, contrary to advice, the circus continued to make her perform, despite a verbal assurance that they would not do so.

To support the draft legislation on licensing, the government has produced guidance for circus operators but this document is flawed with gaping holes in key welfare considerations. For example the document does not cover some species which are currently touring with circuses; of five species categories, only one has guidelines concerning the display, training and performance of animals; and there is no restriction on breeding, which could mean that the number of animals in circuses actually increases.

Despite promises since 2006 that a wild animal circus ban will be introduced – most recently in March of this year – and political and public support for a ban, it is hugely disappointing that the government are continuing to waste taxpayers’ money and parliamentary time by pressing ahead with plans to regulate.

Jan Creamer, ADI Chief Executive says: “The UK prides itself on being a world leader in animal welfare but Europe and South America are leading the way on this issue, with animal circus bans in Ecuador, Greece and Peru announced this year alone. When is the UK government going to stay true to its promise and consign the use of wild animals in circuses into the past where it belongs?”


Media contact
Angie Greenaway, Animal Defenders International
Tel: 020 7630 3344 or 07785 552548

Inspections don’t work – ‘Out of Control’ report
ADI has documented 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.

Opinion Poll finds 72% support a ban:
In 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.

National measures to restrict either all or wild animals in circuses, have been adopted in Austria, Bosnia Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Slovakia, Sweden, Portugal, Taiwan, Singapore, Bolivia, Peru, Paraguay, Costa Rica, India and Israel. Similar laws are being discussed in the United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Malta, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Norway.

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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