This time last year, Animal Defenders International released the shocking findings of an investigation of the Great British Circus.
A year on, and the UK public are more than ever behind a ban on wild animals in circuses… but it is in danger of slipping away due to political inaction.
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During its 2009 tour, the Great British Circus boasted of its high standards of welfare and showcased the elephants in a (relatively barren) outdoor pen. They even claimed that their circus was operating under the standards of Performing Animal Welfare Standards International (PAWSI), the performing animal industry lobby group that has been advising Defra on industry self-regulation and standards.
PAWSI says of itself: “… dedicated to establishing standards to protect the welfare of all animals involved in performance. PAWSI believes that the interaction between animals and man are beneficial to the interests of both, involvement in performance and entertainment is an aspect of this.
“PAWSI has worked tirelessly as an honest-broker with DEFRA and others. It has pioneered training for trainers. Its recommendations for sensible regulation have been preferred by many (including apparently DEFRA).”
Our hidden camera revealed that in fact the elephants spent most of their time in a small pen in a tent and every night the animals were chained by a front and a back leg – barely able to take one step back and forwards. Night vision filming showed the elephants able to shuffle a pace forwards or to stand or lie down. Our film shows these chains being removed in the morning and taken away.
We also caught on film a staggering level of casual violence. Elephants were brutally hit in the face with a metal elephant hook, a broom and a pitchfork; a worker cruelly twisted an elephant’s tail. The frightened animals backed away and cried out when they were hit, or hooked. Read more…
Circus Ban Back on the Agenda
Our exposé of the horrific abuse of elephants at the Great British Circus put wild animals in circuses back on the political agenda, prompting the then Defra minister, Jim Fitzpatrick, to order a formal public consultation on the issue. Read more…
A year on, and public and political support for a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses has never been stronger.
In March, Defra announced that 94.5% of the public backed a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses. Shortly after this announcement, election commitments to pursue a ban were made by parliamentarians across the parties, including Nick Clegg, the now Deputy Prime Minister. Read more…
Following the results of the General Election, ex-Minister Jim Fitzpatrick has this week tabled an EDM calling for a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses once and for all, and bringing debate on the issue back to the House of Commons. The EDM urges the government to enact regulation and states that
“…the only thing stopping this ban from coming in place is a decision by Ministers.”
Shortly after the EDM was tabled, MP Hilary Benn, Labour’s Animal Welfare Spokesperson, took the opportunity to criticize the current Government’s work on animal welfare, stating:
“this new Conservative / Lib Dem coalition Government now appears to be sitting on its hands. Instead it should be following through on the work Labour had done and introducing a straightforward and simple ban on the last few remaining animals being kept by circuses.”
In March 2006 the previous Government made a commitment to the House of Commons and the public to ban wild animals in circuses under the new Animal Welfare Act. This issue, which has such overwhelming public support, was finally reaching resolution in March 2010 just prior to the General Election, after extended consultations, working group and feasibility studies. It would therefore be extremely disappointing after four years of deliberations if the new Government does not seize the opportunity to end this suffering.
Pursuing a ban
The failure to establish a ban on animal circuses under the Animal Welfare Act falls on the shoulders of all parties; now is the time to take decisive action to stamp out this barbaric and uncivilized form of entertainment once and for all.
Though the new Defra Minister Jim Paice has not yet made any solid commitment on the government’s plans regarding the continued use of wild animals in travelling circuses, the public will be expecting decisive action from the new Conservative / Liberal Democrat Coalition Government on the issue.
As governments worldwide consider bans on animal circuses, and as the first animals from the Bolivian circuses take up residence in sanctuaries, many will be hoping that the UK is not left behind in pursuing progressive legislation to protect animals.
ADI are calling on their supporters to contact their MP and ask them to sign EDM 403 Wild Animals in Circuses.
Write to them at:
The House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.
Please refer to the media release here