In a baffling statement issued in March 2005, Defra has rejected almost all of the Select Committee recommendations on animal circuses, saying:
“We consider that the introduction of the welfare offence is likely to prevent unsuitable animals from performing in circuses and elsewhere. Not all non-domesticated species, most of which are captive bred, are unsuitable for performing in circuses and elsewhere, and therefore the type of prohibition proposed by the Committee could lead to anomalies and unfairness.”
They do not elaborate on which non-domestic species they feel are suitable for circuses. The notion that captive breeding has an impact on natural instincts within a few generations is nonsense – domestication takes centuries – and therefore wholly misleading in this context. It is argued that camels are one of the most domesticated of the exotic species in circuses, yet the nature of these animals makes them entirely unsuitable for performing tricks. Camels are often violently abused to get them to perform tricks. An expert witness for Mary Chipperfield said in court that camels needed to be hit with a piece of wood to control them.
Lions and tigers breed relatively easily in captivity but after several generations are still dangerous wild animals. Trainers use force to establish dominance and control over them; the animals suffer severe confinement in small cages, with no environmental enrichment.
Thank you to everyone who sent off their postcards from the last issue. But Defra itself appears to be stubbornly defying both public opinion as well as
that of the Select Committee. So please continue to write to Defra and your MP asking that they ensure that the Animal Welfare Bill prohibits the use of all
animals in travelling circuses – and bans the use of violence in training any performing animals.