Leading wildlife vet Simon Adams and UNEP conservation ambassador Stanley Johnson have spoken out against the “degrading and incredibly damaging” use of wild animals in British circuses.
Leading wildlife vet Simon Adams and UNEP conservation ambassador Stanley Johnson have spoken out against the “degrading and incredibly damaging” use of wild animals in British circuses, following the release of footage by ADI showing big cats at Peter Jolly’s Circus pacing up and down their small cages, one of a range of abnormal, repetitive behaviours, which indicates compromised welfare and suffering.
Simon JR Adams BSc BVMS MRCVS Zoo and Wildlife Veterinary Advisor said “Stereotypic repetitive behaviour is a sign of mental disease, and is well recognised as an indicator of poor standards of animal welfare, where the enclosure is either too small or barren to fulfil the animal’s natural behavioural needs. This is a prime reason why the limited space available in a travelling circus is unsuitable to big cats, as patrolling their large territories in the wild is an essential behavioural drive, thwarted by the limited confines of circus accommodation, no matter how hard the circus may try to accommodate them.”
Simon Adams stressed, “It may be nice for the public to see them, but they should understand that it is not nice for the poor big cats!”
Author, award-winning conservationist and former MEP Stanley Johnson said, “I am deeply saddened that big cats and other wild animals are continuing to suffer in British circuses. I have worked to conserve and protect wildlife for many years, and it is of grave concern that efforts to safeguard these same species in the wild is being undermined by those who continue to use them for cheap tricks, despite the opposition. It’s degrading and incredibly damaging. I fully support Animal Defenders International’s campaign to stop circus suffering and hope that we can pass a ban on wild animals in circuses before the General Election.”
The unpopularity of using wild animals has seen the number of circuses with such acts plummet over the last 15 years to just two – Peter Jolly’s Circus and Circus Mondao. Both are required to be licensed by Government, a temporary measure brought in last year ahead of a ban and opposed by ADI as such regulations are unable to protect the animals.
The licensing system is being used by the circuses to reassure the public and allay concerns. However despite repeatedly stating they are inspected seven times a year, Defra Minister George Eustice stated on 8 July 2014 that the Government has only inspected Circus Mondao and Peter Jolly’s Circus once and twice respectively this year and three and four times respectively in 2013.
The brutal violence and constant chaining of Anne the elephant at the Bobby Roberts Super Circus, exposed by ADI, led to the conviction of her owner and a commitment from Government in March 2012 to ban wild animals in circuses “at the earliest opportunity”. The Draft Wild Animals in Circuses Bill was subsequently published last April, however progress has stalled and the bill has yet to be introduced to Parliament. Responding to a letter from ADI signed by 75 celebrities and politicians, the Prime Minister has recently stated – as reported on Sky News on 16 August – that he remains committed to ban what he calls “an outdated practice”.
In a bid to secure the legislation by 2015, ADI is supporting a new circus bill fronted by former Labour Defra Minister Jim Fitzpatrick MP, which will be introduced on 3 September and seeks to ban wild animal acts before the next election.
Until legislation is brought in, there are concerns that the number of wild animals will increase, as they have this year. Peter Jolly’s Circus for example has been reported in local media as saying that they would not rule out breeding, or getting an elephant – a disturbing prospect, given the terrible suffering endured by Anne the elephant and the elephants at the Great British Circus, both of which were only uncovered by ADI’s investigation, and not inspections.
The circus is no place for wild animals and until the ban is brought in, these animals will continue to suffer.