UK wild animal circuses, Anne Trial and Lion Ark

Catching up… It’s been a very busy time with the UK Government discussing the wild animal circus issue and the new legislation on animal experiments. We’ve had the Los Angeles circus animal ban under discussion, and our Hollywood Lion Ark Night event with Bob Barker, Jorja Fox and a host of celebrities for the private preview of our new movie, Lion Ark, http://www.lionarkthemovie.com/ , then back to London for the Roberts cruelty trial.

After many promises, many delays and time and money wasted on a flawed licensing regime, we may indeed see some progress from the UK Government on the wild animal circus ban.

In a move which appears to signal the beginning of the end for the remaining wild animals in circuses in Britain, ADI revealed on 4th February that Martin Lacey, owner of the Great British Circus, had shipped his tigers off to Ireland to perform with the Courtney Brothers Circus. http://bit.ly/WM8gzp

We told ‘The Observer’ http://bit.ly/WM8gzp, “There has been enough evidence, enough consultations, all the experts agree – putting large cats and other exotic animals in tiny cages that fit on a truck, with no environmental enrichment, and then beating them to perform tricks to entertain people is unacceptable in modern society. The day of the animal circus is over.”

Only two circuses have applied for a licence under the much-criticized new licensing scheme – Circus Mondao and Peter Jolly’s Circus – and there are only a handful of wild animal acts performing across Ireland. Clear evidence of their growing unpopularity with the public.

In February, we met with John Griffiths, Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development at the National Assembly for Wales to discuss the use of wild animals in circuses.  We were heartened by the minister’s support for a ban and hopeful that Wales will introduce legislation in parallel with the UK Government.

In response to an oral question in the Welsh Assembly by Jocelyn Davies on 16th  January, the Minister had responded “….the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is considering legislation that would ban the use of wild animals in circuses. I have been liaising with the UK Government to make it clear that were that legislation to proceed, the Welsh Government would be interested in being a part of it, perhaps through a legislative consent motion, for example.”

We have also met with the Northern Ireland Assembly minister, and will be following this up, see the update at http://bit.ly/14zy8UC

It has been almost two years since our investigation exposed the terrible suffering of Anne the elephant at the winter quarters of the Bobby Roberts’ Super Circus.  Following media pressure arising from release of the footage, Roberts allowed Anne to be removed from the circus. A criminal prosecution followed using the video evidence, at a week long trial last November. Roberts was convicted of cruelty to Anne but received a derisory ‘conditional discharge’ sentence, which means that unless he commits another offence, he escapes a proper punishment.

Roberts was convicted for keeping Anne chained to the ground by two legs for the whole of the time she was in the barn, and for his failure to protect Anne from harm. However, the sentence sends the wrong message to circus owners and workers about their obligations under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The Act cannot protect these animals. And no, the inspections of the Roberts barn did not identify any of the husbandry problems, nor cruelty to Anne.

Anne has remained at Longleat Safari Park and we understand plans for an ‘elephant sanctuary’ are progressing. It’s worrying that it has taken over a year to add a grass paddock to Anne’s enclosure, she is still controlled with the traditional ankus (bullhook) weapons, and she remains alone. We were also deeply saddened to hear Longleat staff defending Roberts in the media before the trial and in court during the trial. However, let’s hope these plans will mean better life for Anne in the long term, see http://bit.ly/X2mKi2

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