A new excuse from Defra

In a letter to an ADI supporter, Defra has launched a raft of new excuses for avoiding a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses – a ban supported overwhelmingly by public and parliament. So, it would appear not only incapable of listening, but increasingly desperate.

It was of course, Defra minister Jim Paice who announced to the House of Commons last May, that a UK ban might invite a legal challenge from Europe (citing Austria), or that it might be be challenged under the European Services Directive and/or the Human Rights Act.  This did not wash.  Now, with stunning obstinacy Defra writes: “Legal advice remains that without either new evidence of irremediable welfare problems or of a clear rational ethical argument (that would not take in other animals), a ban on performing animals in travelling circuses is highly vulnerable on legal grounds”, and on the matter of Austria (the challenge to Austria’s ban having been thrown out) they now insist “the Austrian case may have limited relevance to England’s position”, so “…. the risk of a successful legal challenge to any ban introduced in England remains high…”. Oh, dear, come on!

Who would have believed such goings on over a clear and straightforward case like wild animals in circuses? Hello, Defra…. wild animals living on the backs of trucks… extreme physical confinement and chaining… no opportunity for normal behaviour or for the animal to control its own immediate space? Not to mention the kicking, punching and beating. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Everybody knows it. Except Defra-do-nothing.

UK Parliament – battle to save circus animals continues

We’ve unleashed a storm in the UK Parliament already in 2012! 

ADI has been working hard with a fantastic group of committed MPs who have tabled no less than seventeen parliamentary questions in December and January, followed by two further EDMs (Early Day Motions). This brings our total number of Parliamentary Questions on animal circuses during November, December and January to over thirty.

MPs Jim Cunningham, Caroline Lucas, Peter Bottomly, Jeremy Corbyn, Mark Durkan, Gordon Henderson, Kelvin Hopkins, Bob Russell and Adrian Sanders have all supported the two new EDMs and many others are tabling questions in the House – Tessa Munt, Mark Pritchard, Nic Dakin, Kerry McCarthy, Fiona O’ Donnell, John Leech, Angela Smith, Graeme Morrice, Viendra Sharma, Cathy Jamieson, Gordon Henderson, Gavin Shuker, Justin Tomlinson, Sheila Gilmore, and Jim Fitzpatrick.

This is an amazing level of work to get the Government to listen to the will of parliament and public and take urgent action to end the suffering of wild animals in circuses.  All of the investigations, studies, research and just plain common sense tells us that it is not feasible to keep wild animals in travelling accommodation and expect to maintain health and welfare.

The first, EDM 2563, reminds the Government that urgent action is needed and demands a ban, in accordance with the will of parliament and public.

The second EDM, 2586, demands that the Government release veterinary inspection reports on circuses, which have been repeatedly denied to ADI, despite freedom of information requests.  These reports are clearly a matter of public interest, since they form part of Defra’s information gathering for their proposed licensing regime. Go to: http://bit.ly/zLUZPW

Government intransigence 

The Coalition Government’s intransigence in the face of overwhelming public and parliamentary support for an end the suffering of these animals appears illogical. Following years of investigations and deliberations, a consensus was growing last year, when even the Prime Minister said that he was “minded” to ban.  Then he suddenly blocked all progress.  Now Defra remains set for yet another failure, as it attempts to bring in a doomed inspection and licensing regime.

The legal objections

Back in the early summer, the Government’s objections to a ban were that there might be a legal challenge from Europe (citing a non-existent case), and/or a ban might contravene the European Services Directive, and/or the UK Human Rights Act.  ADI responded with top-level legal advice showing that each of these objections was unfounded and in fact, ministerial statements to the House were wrong. See the story at: http://bit.ly/AFpsGd and  http://bit.ly/yC7Pi4

In an odd coincidence, following this debate in the UK Circus Krone launched another challenge to the Austrian ban.  However, as we announced before Christmas, the Austrian Constitutional Court advised us that it had thrown out the case. This removes the last desperate excuse of the UK Government. The way is now clear for a ban.

Proposed Inspection Regime – ‘Out of Control’

Although the legal impediments to a ban are clearly non-existent, it is still important to address the value of inspection and licensing regimes.  ADI has observed and recorded inspections in both the UK and abroad, and we have not found an inspection regime that can identify and take action over issues of animal abuse or welfare deficits.  Put simply, the abuse does not happen in public or when inspectors are around and poor care can be easy to hide.

The abuse of the elephants we uncovered at the Great British Circus in 2009 would not have been seen during an inspection.  Inspections also failed to discover that the elephants were being chained for excessive periods of time. The abuse of Anne the elephant in 2011 – we released undercover footage last year – would not have been uncovered by an official inspection.

To set these inspections in context, ADI has published a new report, ‘Out of Control’, including details of previously unpublished and unseen evidence of inspections.  It provides clear evidence that an inspection system is doomed to failure. Go to: http://bit.ly/ozO47P.

And so we continue.  Time to dig in!