EFRA report on Wild Animals in Circuses Bill makes no sense

The report of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee (EFRA) on the UK Government’s Wild Animals in Circuses Bill is so shallow that it makes no sense. Profoundly disappointing.

Flying in the face of overwhelming public opinion (94.5% favour a ban in a DEFRA survey); 63% of Members of Parliament favour a ban (Dods poll), and a 2011 vote of the Backbench Committee of Members of Parliament instructing the Government to introduce a ban – EFRA has decided that we only need to ban the species that we no longer have in UK circuses.

We were pleased that after twenty years of investigations, reports, studies and four criminal convictions secured through ADI investigations, the Government finally introduced a Bill to end use of wild animals in travelling circuses.

It is disturbing that now, without requesting or examining evidence of animal suffering, EFRA has recommended that only elephants (no longer in UK circuses), lions, tigers and other large cats (no longer in UK circuses) should be banned. They recommend the licensing scheme be extended indefinitely, despite that not a single prosecution nor any exposé of abuse, has been found by inspectors. On the contrary, we have filmed inspections during periods where animals have been abused or where their care is poor, and the problems were not identified. The veterinary visits and inspections of Anne the elephant at Bobby Roberts’ Super Circus did not prevent the abuse or her suffering from constant chaining, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

EFRA also claims that it is not necessary for a circus owner or worker to be banned from keeping animals under any new legislation, because the Animal Welfare Act 2006 can be used to prosecute and then ban if a conviction follows. This is far more problematic than EFRA suggests. Bobby Roberts was convicted for his failure to protect Anne under the Animal Welfare Act, however he did not receive a fine, nor did he receive a ban. If he had not given up Anne due to the media pressure, she would be with him now.

The suggestion that a list of proscribed species be added to the Bill, rather than an clear-cut end to the use of wild and exotic animals is illogical and impractical. A simple ban on non-domesticated species is clear for everyone to follow and has the support of public and parliament. A proscribed list of species invites European circuses to bring to Britain a whole range of species such as primates, rhino and even hippos – species that, currently, many of our local authorities have already banned. Over 200 local authorities in the UK do not allow animal circuses, or certain species, on their land. A list of species added to any Act would need to be regularly updated.

See our comments in The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/09/plan-ban-wild-animals-circuses-too-far

Sunday Express on British Government’s animal circus licensing failure

Excellent piece in the Sunday Express today, about the failure of the Government’s “interim” inspection/licensing regime for circus animals. We looked at ADI’s photographs of these camels in 2009, 2012 and 2013. Their facilities are just the same. So is it just that the Defra team that has been so lauded by the circus industry for helping them, has set up a scheme to legitimise the use of wild animals in circuses? We think so. We are impressed that the Sunday Express decided to speak up for the poor camels, so often ignored in these debates. In our experience, they frequently suffer brutality and get a hard time because they are seen as slow to respond and stubborn. But they like to explore, stretch their legs, stand under the sun, feel the wind, just as all animals do. But they can’t in the circus. See the Sunday Express piece by the excellent James Fielding at:
http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/384873/Circus-camels-are-still-facing-life-of-misery

Britain fails to issue a single wild animal circus licence but that doesn’t stop the circuses

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.
http://www.ad-international.org/animals_in_entertainment/go.php?id=3081&ssi=10

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

British Government’s report card – good and bad

In response to a question from Mike Hancock, MP, the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has admitted to plans to spend £261,000 on developing the unwanted wild animal circus licensing scheme for the UK, despite calls for a ban from 95% of the public – and approaching 63% of Members of Parliament.

It almost defies belief that in this grim economic climate, the Government is prepared to spend so much money on their unpopular policy. This issue is an ethical and political matter – a ban can be passed on a vote of Parliament. Yet the savage beatings and extreme environmental and social deprivation suffered by these animals is ignored while Defra dithers about – probably hoping that we will all go away.

Meanwhile the UK Home Office gets a slightly better report, having confirmed that the British ban on the use of stray cats and dogs for experiments will remain in place when the new law is introduced next yet.  However, exceptions will be made where it is claimed that the use of feral domestic species might be essential for “essential studies relating to either the health or welfare of the animals or a serious threat to the environment or to human or animal health and where the purpose can only be achieved by using feral animals”. Something to watch very closely and insist that there is full public consultations whenever use of ferals is proposed.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles our battle continues to persuade the City Council to ban the use of wild animals in traveling circuses – Ringlings is attempting to use economic muscle to push the City around, but we hope that the City’s residents will not stand for this kind of interference.

The Bogota office are still pressing authorities in Argentina and Paraguay to move on the seizure of the circus lions and tigers that were stopped at the border and don’t appear to have correct paperwork. There’s a surprise.  The cats are currently being cared for in the local zoo. Let’s hope officials in these two countries will stand up for what is right and protect these vulnerable cats.

Don’t forget to join us for Lion Ark Night on October 13 in the Hollywood Hills! Meet Bob Barker, Jorja Fox, Tonya Kaye and other celebrity supporters to help us save animals.  Private preview of Lion Ark, the movie – the story of the Bolivian circus ban and how we emptied the country of circus animals.  See http://www.adievents.com/

Circuses and elephant rides and all sorts

Circuses and elephant rides and all sorts
Apologies for the silence! Busy couple of months – ADI refused to take part in the Government’s consultation on an inspection scheme for animal circuses, and we issued a joint statement with all the leading animal welfare groups, everyone boycotted the consultation.
It’s simply not reasonable that an expensive licensing regime is proposed, to be replaced by a ban at a later date. Nobody believes that. The Government has lost all credibility with the public and animal protection groups on this issue.
Everyone wants to see a restriction on the use of wild animals in circuses – public want to see and end to their use (94/5% in Defra survey) – parliament has voted repeatedly for it to end (63% of MPs want to see an end to the suffering). And so it goes on, while other animals like Anne the elephant, filmed being beaten in her barn by ADI investigators, continue to suffer.
The Government is responsible for Anne’s suffering and will be responsible for the next animal that is seen on TV screens, being abused.
The trial of circus owners Moira and Bobby Roberts on charges of failure to protect Anne the elephant from cruelty inflicted by their staff, as required under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, starts on 18 June. This will tell us whether the AWA can indeed, hold owners responsible for what happens to their animals.
The constant round of consultations and calls for evidence as the UK changes its rules on animal experiments, has continued. The new European Directive has to be functioning by 2013, so this autumn is when the new regulations will be tabled. We were pleased this week, when the Government announced that some of the key issues that have been demanded by the public have been taken up – no reduction in UK animal welfare provisions, no reduction in inspections. Our campaign to push through the regular reviews of animal experiments, with all stakeholders involved, continues. It has widespread political support; we need to ensure it happens.
In the US, we persuaded Orange County Fair Board in California, to cancel their elephant rides with Have Trunk Will Travel, after they saw how the elephants were trained with bullhooks and stun guns. Many will recall the horrific footage from our investigation when we launched the real training of Tai, the elephant star of ‘Water for Elephants’.
The city of Santa Ana in California has also ended 25 years of elephant rides at their zoo. The town of Sierra Madre cancelled the 4th July Parade appearance by Tai. Then Fountain Valley also cancelled their elephant rides when they saw the video. Well done to those cities and authorities who looked at the evidence, decided that this kind of treatment of animals is not accepted in civilised society, and made the right decision.
Colombia – we’re nearly there with the animal circus ban. Passed unanimously in the House of Representatives. Now on way to Senate.
We also filed a lawsuit this week with PETA against USFW over the export and re-import permits of elephants and tigers for Ringlings Bros Barnum and Bailey Circus.

Jan

Mark Pritchard MP is not fooled by Defra’s cynical tactics on animal circuses

See the article by Mark Pritchard, MP, on Politics Home:
http://www.politicshome.com/uk/story/25082/circus_escape_animals_ban.html

All credit to the MPs who have worked so hard on this issue, for not being fooled by such a cynical ploy – deferring a ban until 2015 (after the General Election, making it a potential manifesto pledge), and an “interim” inspection and licensing regime that can be declared “success” at a later stage.

Mr Pritchard commented: “If the government ignore the will of Parliament they will be moving towards a constitutional crisis as well as once again confirming their reputation as being against animal welfare legislation”

Mary Creagh MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary: 
 
”Last year Parliament voted unanimously for a ban on wild animals in circuses with the backing of 95% of the public. Defra Ministers showed how out of touch with the public they are and hid behind spurious threats of legal challenges in the EU as an excuse for doing nothing.

“Today, Ministers announce a licensing regime until a ban comes in 2015, saying there is no room on the parliamentary timetable for new legislation. Yet only yesterday they introduced a water bill into the house, which will be passed in 2 days. There is nothing to stop them doing the same thing for circus animals, but it’s clear that animal welfare is way down the list of this Government’s priorities.”

This aside, it is clear that Defra plans to keep their inspections secret. ADI requested sight of the circus inspection reports from 2008 and 2009. This was refused, and we now have a Freedom of Information appeal lodged. So it was doubly interesting when Chris Baltrop, ringmaster and occasional spokesperson for the Association of Circus Proprietors, said during media interviews yesterday, that Defra vets had recently inspected the circuses and given them a “clean bill of health”.  Secret inspections, secret reports and a licensing regime forced on an unwilling public and Parliament.