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

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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/

Great British Circus sees the writing on the wall

Finally, Great British Circus owner Martin Lacey has seen the writing on the wall – people don’t want to see archaic shows where miserable animals plod around being beaten, poked and prodded.

Rather than turn his show into one of the successful human-only shows, Lacey announces the sale of his animals in Horse & Hound magazine, saying that he is to retire.

No retirement for his poor tigers though, which one of his workers told an ADI investigator are to be sold to another circus, maybe in Italy.

We have exposed GBC several times now, most recently in 2009, when three elephants from Germany were beaten mercilessly by their handler and trainer; water was put out of reach behind an electric tape fence; a claimed “six” welfare inspections by local authorities, police and RSPCA, did not discover the abuse. But the UK Government still claims that inspections can protect these animals.

Good news to hear that circus impresario Gerry Cottle – who moved to human-only circus shows some years ago – has recently announced his belief that the presence of animals gives circuses a bad name. Quite right.

However, will the UK Government see the light? The public and parliamentary support for an end to the use of wild animals in travelling circuses has never been higher. Will they bow to the nation’s wishes, and bring in a ban before the next election? Now is the time!

Meanwhile – the ADI Peru team has been in meetings with government officials on implementation of the ban there.

Greece ban is won!

Success! The Greek Government has banned the use of all (yes, ALL) animals in circuses following a campaign by Animal Defenders International (ADI) and the Greek Animal Welfare Fund (GAWF), backed by over 50 local animal protection groups across Greece.

The new law follows ADI’s undercover circus investigations showing horrific suffering, launched across Greece in 2006 – the same year that the UK announced it was going to bring in a wild animal ban. We’re still waiting.

We applaud the decisive action of the Greek government, who made the time to make this statement about what kind of society they want to be, clearly civilized and responsible towards other species. Surely this must spur on the British government, now that they find themselves lagging behind Greece, Portugal, Austria, Denmark and Croatia in Europe on this issue?

South America is on the case – Bolivian banned in 2009; Peru banned last year; Colombia, Brazil and Ecuador are all discussing it. Greece shows that Europe is on the case – come on United Kingdom! And then there’s the United States….

Greece is the first country in Europe to ban all animals in circuses, not just wild animals. This acknowledges that the traveling circus is no place for animals and that the barren, deprived, unnatural environments, constant travel and stress of being forced to perform are just as damaging for domesticated species as it is for wild animals.

Let’s hope Washington is listening – this is a world-changing movement and its moment has arrived. Together with Congressman Jim Moran, we launched our federal circus bill for a ban on animal circuses in the US last November – get your member of congress to sign up to the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act, H.R. 3359!