Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Government support for backbench bill to ban wild animal circuses

Posted: 5 March 2018

Animal Defenders International (ADI) is calling on MPs to support a government backed bill to ban the use of wild animals in circuses. The Ten Minute Rule Motion by Conservative MP Trudy Harrison will be introduced tomorrow, Tuesday 6 March.

Jan Creamer, President of Animal Defenders International, said: “Although a date now appears to be set for a ban, we must remember that Government legislation to end wild animals in circuses has been ready, but has not progressed, for five years. MPs can help secure this popular measure once and for all by supporting the bill from Trudy Harrison MP to end wild animal acts in England.”

Trudy Harrison MP says: “Using these animals in performances adds nothing to the understanding and conservation of wild animals and the natural environment. Wild animals in circuses are trained solely for the entertainment of crowds, to perform tricks and acts which have no correlation to their natural behaviour. The British public overwhelmingly support a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses and bringing the law up to date is long overdue.”

Last week, the UK Government indicated it will ban wild animals in circuses in England by January 2020, allowing regulations introduced as an interim measure ahead of a ban to expire. Similar bans have recently passed in Ireland and Scotland, and are under discussion in Wales. Opinion polls consistently show that the UK public remains overwhelmingly opposed to wild animal acts, with a high proportion against all animal acts.

The announcement was welcomed by national treasures Brian Blessed and Joanna Lumley, who are both long-standing supporters of ADI and its campaign to stop circus suffering.

Brian Blessed said: “Having worked with ADI on this issue for many years, I am absolutely delighted that a wild animal circus ban is in sight. It cannot come soon enough for the animals, who must endure an utterly unnatural and miserable life in the circus.”

Joanna Lumley said: “Forced to perform, caged and confined, it is haunting and horrifying to see animals being used in circuses and I’m thrilled that action will finally be taken. We must end these pitiful acts across the UK; so please join me in backing ADI’s campaign to stop circus suffering today.”

Changing attitudes and awareness of animal suffering have seen the number of wild animal circuses in Britain plummet. Only two circuses perform in England with wild animals, Circus Mondao and Peter Jolly’s Circus.

A ban on wild animal circuses was first promised under a Labour Government during the passage of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Following the shocking abuse of three elephants at the Great British Circus in 2009, exposed by ADI, a public consultation on the issue was launched by Defra. The results published in 2010 showed 94.5% supported a ban on wild animal acts and resulted in a commitment from the Labour Government, before the General Election resulted in a Coalition Government.

In 2011, ADI exposed the terrible abuse of Anne the elephant at Bobby Roberts Super Circus, leading to backbench MPs demanding a ban. ADI’s shocking footage also led to a cruelty conviction for circus owner Bobby Roberts. With a commitment from the Coalition Government in 2012, legislation to ban wild animals in circuses in England was drafted the following year. However despite stating it would be a “leading protector of animals”, the Government bill has simply gathered dust. Forty three countries have stepped up to stop circus suffering to date, with 27 of the bans – including in Scotland and Ireland – introduced since the bill was published. Repeated efforts by backbench MPs to bring in a ban through Private Member’s Bills, supported by ADI, have been thwarted by just a few MPs; the latest from Conservative MP Trudy Harrison, and again worded as per the government bill, to be introduced on 6 March.

In 2016, ADI revealed the miserable lives of Thomas Chipperfield’s lions and tigers, caged on the back of a truck and shut behind metal shutters at night and with restricted access to an outdoor exercise during the day. ADI also revealed suffering the same year at the winter quarters of Peter Jolly’s Circus. Appalling overcrowding, fighting between animals, a worker tormenting a camel, animals kept inside for days on end, and failure to comply with government regulations were documented.

Expert analysis of scientific evidence undertaken by Professor Stephen Harris at Bristol University in 2016, commissioned by the Welsh Government and the most comprehensive and recent study of its kind to date, concluded, “The available scientific evidence indicates that captive wild animals in circuses and other travelling animal shows do not achieve their optimal welfare requirements.” The report stated that “Life for wild animals in travelling circuses…does not appear to constitute either a ‘good life’ or a ‘life worth living’”.

The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) has concluded “there is by no means the possibility that their [wild mammals in traveling circuses’] physiological, mental and social requirements can adequately be met.” while the British Veterinary Association concludes that “The welfare needs of non-domesticated, wild animals cannot be met within a travelling circus - in terms of housing or being able to express normal behaviour.”

Given the constant travel and their temporary nature, circuses cannot provide animals with adequate facilities to keep them physically or psychologically healthy. Welfare is always compromised.

Media Contact: Devon Prosser | 020 7630 3344 or 07785 552548 |

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