Stop Circus Suffering

The science on suffering: Defra’s proposed Code of Practice

The Code of Practice that Defra has suggested could be used for circuses (as detailed in their annex to the Draft Bill) is called ‘Standards for the care and welfare of circus animals on tour’ and has been proposed by the Association of Circus Proprietors (ACP) and written by David Hibling

11. Defra’s proposed Code of Practice

  • The Code of Practice that Defra has suggested could be used for circuses (as detailed in their annex to the Draft Bill) is called ‘Standards for the care and welfare of circus animals on tour’ and has been proposed by the Association of Circus Proprietors (ACP) and written by David Hibling.
  • This code has been circulated to all local authorities by Defra, despite objections from all major animal welfare groups on the grounds that the code is poorly drafted, and could misguide local authorities into believing that all circuses travelling in the UK are members of the ACP (not the case), and that the standards are approved by Defra.
  • ADI is concerned that the author of the code, David Hibling, a ringmaster who appeared as a defence witness for Mary Chipperfield Cawley at her trial for cruelty to a baby chimpanzee is not an appropriate authority for such a code. During the trial, Hibling was shown three videos of assaults on the baby chimp and asked: “See anything which would constitute cruelty?” Hibling replied unequivocally, “No”. Asked: “Would you do what Mary Cawley did?” Hibling replied “Yes”. Mary Cawley was convicted of twelve counts of cruelty based on the video. Hibling was also shown video of Roger Cawley whipping a sick young elephant, Flora, making her run faster and faster. Hibling again saw nothing cruel. Roger Cawley was convicted of cruelty to Flora.
  • ADI’s objection (and that of other welfare groups at the time) is that the proposed code contains rather fanciful, impractical concepts which cannot be applied to touring circuses. It will therefore be meaningless.
  • For travelling circus animals there are at least two types of accommodation – the permanent quarters used for approximately 4 months per year, and temporary/travelling accommodation used for approximately 8 months of the year – with the latter changing week by week depending on the available space and facilities of the next site.
  • This makes the annual inspection outlined in the Annexes to the Draft Bill impractical from the outset, in relation to travelling circuses.
  • This Code of Practice will inevitably leave animals in the entertainment industry with an automatic downgrading of protection – it could mean that a horse in a riding stable could be treated differently to a horse in a circus, or a tiger in a circus differently from one in a zoo.
  • ADI believes this clause leaves the door open to second-class protection for animals used in commercial enterprises, since the Duty of Care will be obvious when the animal is a personal pet, but swept aside because it will be difficult to enforce in a travelling circus.
  • On the other hand, ADI recommends that static circus shows, and use of animals in other areas of entertainment such as film and television, can indeed be governed by a suitable code of practice and strict regulation and licensing.

Click here for a PDF of the report

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