Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Licensing Scheme Fails, No Licences Issued

Posted: 14 March 2013. Updated: 7 July 2014

The costly licensing scheme for wild animals in circuses, announced by Defra last year instead of the Government’s promised ban, has failed to issue any licences and circuses are travelling with unlicensed animals, reports Animal Defenders International (ADI).

The licensing scheme came into effect in January, but has failed to issue wild animal licences to the two circuses that have applied for their circus tours for the 2013 season, which is now under way. ADI reports that Circus Mondao is already travelling with camels, which are classed as exotic animals and are therefore covered by the new licensing scheme.

On 6th March, ADI investigators photographed two camels in a tent at the back of the circus at junction A16, Wash Road, Kirton PE20 1QJ, where the circus performed until 10th March. No room was provided for grazing or exercise.

A Written Ministerial statement on 12 October 2012 said it is “A requirement that any travelling circus in England that includes wild animals first obtains a licence from Defra”.

Defra’s website announces: “The Regulations make it an offence to operate a travelling circus that has wild animals in England without a valid licence“.

In an email communication with Defra on 26 February, ADI was advised that “Two applications for licences have been received, but no licences have yet been issued. If any travelling circus in England is found to be using wild animals without a licence then appropriate enforcement action would be taken.”

Jan Creamer, CEO of Animal Defenders International: “The Government stubbornly insisted on introducing this costly licensing regime, despite objections from animal protection groups and Members of Parliament. ADI has provided evidence that a licensing and inspection regime cannot protect these animals – the conviction of Bobby Roberts last year, for the cruelty inflicted on Anne the elephant, shows that inspections in these circumstances cannot work. The public is in support of a ban, parliament is overwhelmingly in favour of a ban, yet the Government refuses to take the simple and more economic option to prevent further suffering. This appears to be nothing short of dogma, at the expense of vulnerable animals.”

A Defra survey of public attitudes to wild animals in circuses found that 94.5% wanted to see an end to the use of wild animals in circuses. A 2011 Dods Parliamentary Poll for ADI showed the majority of members of parliament (63%) support a ban.



Media contacts:
Ashley Lovell/Angie Greenaway
Animal Defenders International
Tel: 020 7630 3344 or 07785 552548

Film and photographs of animals in UK circuses are available from ADI

Defra is spending nearly £300,000 of public money on an “interim” licensing scheme, having promised parliament on three occasions that the Government will ban wild animals in circuses at the earliest opportunity. A clean and simple end to the use of wild animals in circuses is a cheaper option than an expensive licensing regime, see here.

Inspections don’t work – ‘Out of Control’ report/video
ADI has released previously unpublished evidence of the failure of inspections to detect animal suffering in circuses. This is the only independent evidence of inspections – the inspectors did not know we were watching. View the report here

The cost of the Defra licensing scheme is reported at

DEFRA planned to spend £261,000 on developing the licensing scheme for wild animals in circuses, when the majority of members of parliament (63%) and members of the public (94.5%) have already stated that they want to see a ban.

Defra’s own impact assessment revealed a licensing scheme would cost £75,600 (one-off cost) as well as annual costs of £19,400.

Defra guidelines on use of wild animals in circuses
The Defra ‘Guidance on the Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012’, were introduced on 20th January 2013. Camels are classed as wild animals.

Defra Guidance advises “A “travelling circus” is a circus that includes wild animals and travels from place to place to give performances, displays or exhibitions and includes any place where the wild animals are kept. The definition includes all tour sites, winter quarters and anywhere else the wild animals are kept.”

Animal Defenders International
With offices in London, Los Angeles, 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.

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 2019