The Reluctant Entertainers


Innocent Prisoners

Born Free has published a report, Innocent Prisoners, revealing the ongoing misery of solitary elephants in European zoos and circuses.  The report marks the 30th anniversary of the death of the last African elephant at London Zoo, a tragedy which led to the founding of the animal charity.

Organisations Refuse to Participate in Circus Consultation

Given the stance taken by Animal Defenders International (ADI) and other animal protection and welfare organisations, I have decided to post ADI’s statement in full below.

You may also like to read my three previous blogs regarding wild animals in circuses: Wild Animals in Circuses, Wild Animals in Circuses – Part Two and Greece Bans Animal Circuses.

Posted: 23 April 2012. Updated: 24 April 2012

Animal welfare organisations refuse to participate in ill-conceived consultation on wild animals in travelling circuses

Statement on animal circus consultation from:
Animal Defenders International, Animal Aid, Born Free Foundation, Captive Animals Protection Society, Four Paws, OneKind, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

The undersigned leading animal protection and welfare organisations are dismayed at the Government’s continued pursuit of an inspection and licensing regime for wild animals in travelling circuses despite the clear wishes of the public expressed in Defra’s 2010 consultation, when 94.5% supported a ban. MPs passed a motion in 2011 directing the Government to introduce a ban. The majority of elected politicians have indicated a ban is the reasonable and practical way forward.

The same Defra public consultation gave respondents the option to support either a ban or inspections – only 29.5% supported inspections. This new consultation does not provide that option and is therefore badly designed.

While we welcome the Government’s long-term commitment “to pursue a ban on the use of [wild] animals [in circuses]” we cannot understand how an expensive and ill-conceived licensing regime can be justified, in place of a ban. Responsible animal welfare groups cannot endorse measures that we believe will fail to protect the welfare of animals and are likely to lead to continued, and perhaps increased, suffering of vulnerable animals for years to come.

We have considered the Defra consultation and formed the same opinion – that we will not be taking part in the public consultation on the draft proposals, as we believe they would be a step backwards for animal welfare. Furthermore we are urging our supporters to contact Defra and let the Government know they will not accept such an approach.

Our major areas of concern include:

The Government is starting from the wrong place and independent legal opinion is that a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses can be introduced under section 12 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
The Government has received independent legal opinions from a number of lawyers and animal welfare organisations stating that powers provided in s12 are wide enough to introduce secondary legislation to ban an activity where to do so would promote animal welfare. Animal welfare organisations have provided scientific evidence showing that the welfare of these animals is compromised in such environments. The Government is relying upon a flawed report, which had previously been set aside. There is a respectable body of scientific opinion that animals suffer in travelling circuses; there does not need to be a scientific consensus on the degree of suffering, or that animals in circuses suffer more than animals kept for other purposes.

The Defra proposals are ill conceived and will not prevent animal suffering nor promote good welfare. In fact they may lead to an increase in suffering due to an unjustified sense of public confidence in an expensive and inadequate regime. Given the circumstances of constant travel, with animals contained in a variety of vehicles and cages, travelling circuses cannot provide wild animals with the facilities and environment they need to maintain health and welfare.
In the UK such inspections have failed to pick up on animal husbandry deficits and cases of abuse. Sick and injured animals have been hidden from inspectors; excessive chaining, water restriction and abuse have all gone undetected. The failings of inspection regimes for constantly travelling shows are highlighted in the U.S., in the 2010 Inspector General’s USDA APHIS Audit Report, including: reliance upon broadly-worded guidance causing difficulties with interpretation; difficulty in finding circuses and with inspections and re-inspections; communication between inspectors, etc.

The Government’s consultation and Impact Assessment documents do not include clear provision supporting the commitment to introducing a complete ban.
Indeed the IA does not contain any reference to such a ban being the ultimate aim of Government policy. We believe that any response to the consultation could be seen as tacitly supporting the provision of licensing, especially when no clear cut off date for a ban is provided, and this is clearly not the position of the organisations listed here.

The Government does not provide a timetable to introduce a ban.
The Government’s statement on 1st March indicated “work to set out the ethical basis for a ban will proceed alongside the development of a licensing scheme.”

The cost of the licensing scheme is excessive and a wasteful temporary solution
Defra’s IA (2009) advises that the associated costs for the potential regulator are £7,680-£11,500 per year and for the circuses, £129,000-£190,000 one-off improvement costs. The latest IA advises that one-off costs will be £75,600 and annual costs £19,400. Thus, costs over ten years would be £269,600. Considering the economics of the travelling circuses, there are concerns that the taxpayer will incur greater costs than indicated.

We strongly urge that the Government sticks to its declared intention to pursue a ban and bring this in sooner rather than later. In pursuing a poorly drafted licensing regime that sets standards at far too low a level (less than the poorest zoo), it is ignoring the views of the majority of welfare organisations, the public and elected politicians.

This issue can be solved through regulations developed under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the Government should follow the lead taken by other countries including Austria, Greece, Portugal, Croatia, Estonia, Denmark, Finland, the Czech Republic and Sweden.

Animal Defenders International, Animal Aid, Born Free Foundation, Captive Animals Protection Society, Four Paws, OneKind, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

[Note: The Defra public consultation on regulations for animal circuses will close on 25 April 2012]

Greece Bans Animal Circuses

ADI reported on 3rd February that Greece has banned the use of all animals in circuses following a campaign by ADI and the Greek Animal Welfare Fund (GAWF) – the campaign was backed by over 50 local animal protection groups across Greece.

The ban means Greece is the first European country to ban all animals from circuses and similar performances.  Austria has banned wild animal acts and several European countries including Croatia, Denmark and Portugal have measures to ban or phase out wild animals in circuses.  The UK is noticeable by its absence from that list.

Hopefully, Greece’s action will place more pressure on  the UK to implement a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.

I wanted to post this news on 3rd February but had posted Action Alert: BUAV Calls on Indonesia to Ban the Capture and Trade in Wild Monkeys that morning and felt that needed a few days’ as the site’s current posting.

Wild Animals in Circuses – Part Two

Back in August 2010, I published a blog about the ban on wild animals in circuses in the UK being long overdue.  On 6th May, the Independent published an article No 10 blocks plan to ban wild animals performing in circuses which included the statement that “Ministers are expected to announce a system of self-regulation by circuses within days.”

This ADI page contains one example of why self-regulation will not work – unfortunately, there are many reasons why wild animals are not suited for a circus life and some are mentioned in the article.

Tiger Jumping Through a Hoop

Yesterday (8th May), the Independent published a follow up article with this introduction:

“Internet users have given strong backing to The Independent’s campaign calling for a ban on wild animals performing in circuses.

“More than 6,000 people had signed our petition urging the Government to announce a ban, while hundreds have posted messages of support on our website, Facebook page and on Twitter.”

The RSPCA, BVA, Born Free Foundation and the Captive Animals’ Protection endorse the Independent’s campaign to ban wild animals in circuses – please add your name to the petition.  Thank you.

Wild Animals in Circuses

In December 2009, the then Labour government launched a three month public consultation on the use of non-domesticated animals in circuses.

Following the consultation’s closure in March 2010, DEFRA announced the results for over 10,000 respondents, including:

  • 95.5% believed no species of wild animals are acceptable in circuses;
  • 94.5% supported a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses as the best option to achieve better welfare conditions;
  • 84% believed that animals should be re-homed in zoos or sanctuaries;
  • 96% thought that travelling circuses should be prevented from obtaining further wild animals; and
  • 96.5% thought inspectors should undertake unannounced inspections of travelling circuses.
Circus Lions in a Cage

Picture from Born Free's Circuses & Performing Animals Web Page

The Labour minister, Jim Fitzpatick, said, “We are minded to ban wild animals from travelling circuses on the back of the consultation, given the weight of public opinion. With the evidence we have, we feel it is inappropriate for wild animals to be performing tricks in travelling circuses… we’re very clearly saying as a Labour government that we will legislate against wild animals in travelling circuses.”

I understand the Liberal Democrats had said they would ban wild animals in circuses, however, the Conservatives indicated they would not support a ban.

Austria, Croatia, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Israel and Singapore have all banned the use of wild animals in circuses and the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Portugal, India and Sweden have banned the use of certain wild animals in circuses.

The ban on wild animals in circuses in the UK is long overdue.

Further details can be found at ADI’s web page Stop Circus Suffering.