Britain’s Defra (Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) informed ADI that no licences have yet been issued for the British Government’s hugely expensive and doomed scheme to regulate wild animals in circuses. Yet ADI investigators have photographed camels at Mondao circus in Kirton, Peterborough – a species that should be licensed.
On 12 October 2012 the Government announced, “A requirement that any travelling circus in England that includes wild animals first obtains a licence from Defra”. This is reiterated on Defra’s website, “The Regulations make it an offence to operate a travelling circus that has wild animals in England without a valid licence“. And, “a circus that includes wild animals and travels from place to place to give performances, displays or exhibitions and includes any place where the wild animals are kept. The definition includes all tour sites, winter quarters and anywhere else the wild animals are kept.”
Defra advised ADI by email, 26 February, “Two applications for licences have been received, but no licences have yet been issued. If any travelling circus in England is found to be using wild animals without a licence then appropriate enforcement action would be taken.”
The licensing and inspection regime was opposed by all animal welfare groups following consistent evidence of suffering and brutality released by ADI dating back twenty years. Only last year, ADI evidence secured the conviction circus owner Bobby Roberts for cruelty to his elephant, Anne. The first ever conviction of cruelty under the UK’s Animal Welfare Act after multiple inspections failed to identify any of Anne’s abuse.
Given the circumstances of keeping animals in small, lightweight, collapsible accommodation that can be fitted onto the back of a vehicle, it is simply not possible to provide these animals with the environment and facilities they need to maintain optimum psychological and physical health. That is aside from any physical abuse during training and control, that ADI has consistently exposed. The solution is not to use them in the travelling circus business.
I remain mystified by the Government’s stubborn refusal to move straight to their promise to ban wild animals from circuses, in the face of such overwhelming public and parliamentary support. A Defra survey found 94.5% of the public support a ban; a Dods poll for ADI showed the majority of Members of Parliament, 63%, also support a ban.
This appears to be blind political dogma, at the expense of vulnerable animals.