Stop Circus Suffering

Animals in circuses: u-turn in the UK, progress in the rest of the world

“…The Government have made it clear that we are committed to banning certain non-domesticated species currently used in circuses, with a regulation coming into force in 2008. That commitment is crystal clear.”

In November 2006, during the passage of the Animal Welfare Act in the House of Lords, minister Lord Rooker declared “…The Government have made it clear that we are committed to banning certain non-domesticated species currently used in circuses, with a regulation coming into force in 2008. That commitment is crystal clear.” In March 2008, ADI received a letter from the same minister stating: “I do not believe that there was ever a commitment to ban wild animal acts in circuses.”

A year ago, MPs received the disappointing report of Defra’s Circus Working Group, which, due to a muddled and flawed methodology, proved inconclusive. The parameters for evidence had been made so narrow as to exclude almost anything of any meaning. A ban on the use of wild animals in circuses that has clear welfare benefits and both public and political support was suddenly derailed.

Since then independent parliamentary law firm Bircham Dyson Bell have issued a report stating that the conclusion drawn by the CWG chair, that the Government cannot implement a ban under regulations, is “incorrect in law.”

Thus, the Government remains in a position to ban the use of wild animals in circuses by regulation under the Animal Welfare Act.  This potential of the Act was clearly anticipated and discussed in detail during Standing Committee and during debates in the Commons and Lords.

Mark Pritchard, MP for Wrekin, tabled EDM 965 which is currently before the House with over 180 signatures, states: “That this House notes with concern that the Circus Working Group disregarded substantial amounts of evidence on the welfare of animals in circuses as a result of the methodology imposed by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; believes that the report of the Chair of the Circus Working Group fails to provide reliable information on this subject; and urges the Government to maintain its commitment to ban the use of wild species in travelling circuses and to restrict and limit the use of domesticated species under a strict, accountable and open licensing system.”

The UK had been at the forefront of measures to end the use of wild animals in circuses – 80% of the public support a ban and over 200 Councils have bans – but the issue remains stalled at a national level. Meanwhile there are now proposals before the governments of Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil and Greece to ban the use of wild animals in circuses, with similar legislation already in place in Austria, Singapore and Costa Rica.

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