The science on suffering: ADI Recommendations
The Animal Welfare Bill states that an animal’s needs shall be taken to include–
(a) its need for a suitable environment,
(b) its need for a suitable diet,
(c) its need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns,
(d) any need it has to be housed with, or apart from, other animals, and
(e) its need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
However, the circumstances to be taken into consideration of the above include–
(a) any lawful purpose for which the animal is kept, and
(b) any lawful activity undertaken in relation to the animal.
ADI would prefer to see a complete prohibition on the use of animals in travelling circuses, on grounds of welfare, on the face of the Bill.
However, if prohibitions must be under regulation then ADI believes that we must ensure that such regulations or code of practice will not negate the provisions listed in (a) to (e) of the “needs” paragraph. There is no logical reason to treat a privately owned horse, or a tiger in a zoo, differently from their counterparts in a circus. Nor would it be ethically justified.
Many domestic species are currently exhibited in UK circuses, but in the eventuality of a ban on “certain non-domesticated species” (as announced by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)), it is highly probable that a greater variety of both domestic and wild or exotic species may be sourced by circuses in an attempt to circumvent the ban. It could also cause confusion about what is or is not allowed.
A circus touring Europe in April 2006 has in its menagerie 3 penguins, 2 snakes and piranhas, and previously included an octopus. Such acts could appear in the UK – in the past a shark show, sea lions and hybrids such as zebroids (zebra/donkey crosses) and ligers (lion/tiger crosses), have all toured the UK. Already two major UK circuses, in clear defiance of the public and parliamentary mood, have said that they wish to add elephants and bears to their touring menageries in 2006.
ADI has been responsible for obtaining the evidence for almost all of the circus industry cruelty convictions to date. We fear that the principles for protection of animals laid down in the Bill will be seriously undermined if animal protection groups are left in the same position as now – that we must gather evidence and commence proceedings before a circus has left the area, or even the country.
Furthermore ADI is concerned that organisations such as ourselves will be obliged to gather evidence on every new species that appears in a circus.
ADI recommends something more simple:
Defra should reverse the proposal – prohibit the use of all animals in travelling circuses, and if felt necessary, make provision for the Secretary of State to allow certain acts, by animals of certain species, under licence.
This would correctly place the onus of evidence on the circuses – those who wish to use animals in travelling circuses would have to provide evidence of adequate arrangements for husbandry and welfare.
If good welfare provision can be demonstrated, the Secretary of State licences that particular species, or performance.
Given the small scale of the industry such a system would not be unduly problematic. By contrast retrospectively reviewing each species as it turns up with a circus would be, we believe, problematic and expensive.