Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Wild animal circus ban PASSED in UK Parliament

Posted: 23 July 2019

Campaigners, who have fought for decades to stop circus suffering, are today celebrating after the British Parliament today finally banned the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in England from January 2020.

The Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill passed its Third, and final, Reading today in the House of Lords. Proceeding to Royal Assent, the legislation brings England into line with a ban already passed in Scotland. It comes after more than a decade of promises from successive governments and over 20 years of investigations and campaigns by Animal Defenders International (ADI).

Jan Creamer, President of Animal Defenders International said: “I am delighted that Parliament has finally banned wild animals in circuses and we can draw a line under this archaic abuse in England, Scotland (where there is already a ban), and soon I hope in Wales. There has been overwhelming public support for a ban since Animal Defenders International began exposing the horrific cruelty and abuse behind the scenes of British circuses of animals like chimpanzee Trudy, Anne the elephant, and far too many others. I am delighted that England is finally catching up with over 40 countries that have already passed such bans.”

UK opinion polls and consultations have consistently shown overwhelming public opposition to the use of wild animals in circuses. A ban has also been supported by animal experts, with a report commissioned by the Welsh Government finding that “Life for wild animals in travelling circuses…does not appear to constitute either a ‘good life’ or a ‘life worth living’”. Legislation is already in place in Scotland, with a bill to ban wild animal acts introduced earlier this month to the Welsh Assembly.

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. There have also been repeated exposés by ADI of physical abuse behind the scenes in circuses.

ADI has offered to assist with relocation of animals affected by the legislation and is currently helping enforce a ban on animal acts in Guatemala, where it has removed 21 lions and tigers from circuses and will be relocating most of these animals to the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa. ADI has previously assisted with the enforcement of bans on animals in circuses in Bolivia, Peru and Colombia.


ADI turned the tide against circus suffering worldwide with a series of undercover investigations and campaigns. 25 years ago, the UK had one of the most powerful circus industries in the world, supplying thousands of animals to circuses worldwide. But as ADI hidden cameras captured what was going on behind the scenes, the public turned its back on this cruel multi-million-pound industry and the law has finally caught up. The key events in the battle to stop circus suffering in Britain:

  • 1993: ADI secures the first film of the appalling conditions inside circus permanent training quarters and also captures on film a llama being beaten.
  • 1996: 7.3 million viewers tune into BBC’s ‘Here & Now’ featuring an ADI investigation of Europe’s largest supplier of lions and tigers for circuses – Chipperfield Enterprises in Oxfordshire.
  • 1998: ADI releases the findings of a two-year undercover investigation of the British and European circus industry. The harrowing footage shows animals living in horrendous conditions and enduring sustained abuse and beatings. Numerous circuses close and the number of British circuses with animals halve within six months. Steve Gills, the elephant keeper at Mary Chipperfield Promotions, is jailed as a result of the ADI footage of him repeatedly beating the elephants.
  • 1999: Mary Chipperfield (“Queen of the British circus”) is convicted on multiple counts of cruelty after being filmed by ADI thrashing and kicking an infant chimpanzee called Trudy. Chipperfield’s husband, a zoo inspector, Roger Cawley is convicted of cruelty to a young elephant called Flora.
  • 2002: ADI unsuccessfully tries to have Anne the elephant removed from Bobby Roberts Circus. She is almost skeletal after the death of her two companion elephants.
  • 2003: Chipperfield Enterprises, which boasted supplying over 2,000 lions and tigers to circuses, closes down. Mary Chipperfield Promotions had also closed.
  • 2006: An amendment to the Animal Welfare Act that would ban the use of wild animals in circuses is withdrawn after promises in both the Commons and Lords that the Act will be used to ban animal acts.
  • 2007: Perhaps the most shameful episode in political history relating to animals – the Circus Working Group report. The gathering of evidence is so manipulated as to exclude almost all evidence. The report is inconclusive and contradictory and used to condemn animals to years of more beatings.
  • 2009: ADI cameras inside an elephant tent record the repeated abuse of three elephants with the Great British Circus.
  • 2010: 94.5% of respondents to Defra’s public consultation support a wild animal ban. A ban is again promised.
  • 2011: ADI exposes the terrible abuse of Anne the elephant at Bobby Roberts Super Circus, during which the elderly elephant is kicked and beaten whilst chained in a barn. Backbench MPs debate the issue and vote unanimously to instruct the Government to pass a ban.
  • 2012: Circus owner Bobby Roberts is convicted of cruelty as a result of ADI footage. The coalition government announces a ban and drafts legislation the following year. It simply gathers dust. Since then, more than half of the forty-five bans in place worldwide have passed. Multiple attempts to bring in a private member’s bill using the government’s own text are repeatedly blocked over the years.
  • 2016: ADI exposes how Thomas Chipperfield’s big cats live and also inside Peter Jolly’s Circus.
  • 2017: Scotland bans wild animals in circuses (Ireland also passes a ban the same year).
  • 2019: Parliament finally passes legislation to ban wild animals in circuses

Media contact
Angie Greenaway 020 7630 3344 or 07785 552548

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