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13 May 2011
Proposals really are a 'toothless tiger'
The Coalition Government's announcement today that it will not be banning the use of wild animals in circuses due to a legal challenge involving the Austrian Government, and therefore opting for a licensing regime is costly, will not address animal welfare, and completely contradicts the will of the public, says Animal Defenders International (ADI).
Government has claimed that the Austrian Government has recently been taken to court for its "attempt” to ban wild animals in circuses and they are therefore loathe to legislate. The Austrian ban has been firmly in place for over 6 years and other European countries such as Denmark have implemented similar bans without challenge. Countries such as Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Portugal and Sweden all have similar legislation with restrictions.
Jan Creamer, Chief Executive of ADI said: "The government's reason given for not banning is misleading, they have gone for the most expensive option, and their decision flies in the face of public opinion. Nearly three quarters of the British public recently voted overwhelmingly in independent polls for a ban, making it abundantly clear that they oppose regulation.
"To add insult to injury the government is now asking the taxpayer to bear the brunt of the costs and pay for the privilege of enforcement which will do little to actually protect animals from suffering. The option of a ban is both cheaper and more effective in terms of animal protection. This is a complete whitewash.
"They have hidden behind this legal case and have misjudged the public mood. These proposals really are a toothless tiger and government should hang its head in shame. People will be outraged, and animals will suffer.”
The proposals will do nothing to protect wild animals currently languishing in circuses; inspectors will be unable to enforce any orders they give because the circuses are constantly on the move; they will not see what goes on behind the scenes and a lot of public money will be spent chasing circuses in an attempt to control them. These poor animals will still have to endure constant travel, long journeys and a substantial amount of time in collapsible and lightweight facilities.
Training and random abuse will continue to take place behind closed doors, and the industry will continue to employ unqualified workers and a variety of acts from around the world, so it will be impossible to assess their competence.
With the unlimited range of species available to circuses it is difficult to see where the expertise for enforcement would come from for the Government inspectors, who will have to be trained in all wild animal species and have constant retraining every time a new exotic animal is imported into the country.
Tim Phillips, ADI's Campaigns Director said: "Worldwide, there is currently no system of regulation which is effective in protecting circus animals and this decision is a shameful dereliction of the government's duty, is completely at odds with public and parliamentary will, and we are astounded that the UK Government has found such a weak excuse not to ban animals in circuses.
"There have been more exposés of the brutality of the circus industry in the UK than any country in the world none of which would have been detected or prevented by regulation. This is an extremely sad day for UK animal welfare and protection."
Last year, a survey by Defra (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) resulted in a huge 94.5% support for a ban.
This month, ADI released the results of its independent online poll carried out by YouGov, which asked impartial participants aged over 18 to what extent they would support or oppose a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses. A massive 72% of the public backed a ban with only 8% against – almost 3 out 4 members of the public want a ban.
This week a national newspaper released the findings of their independent poll carried out by ComRes earlier this month which reaffirmed that an overwhelming majority of 71% of the public backed a ban.
The releases of these polls couldn't have come at a worse time for the circus industry, as ADI's shocking undercover footage revealing the terrible suffering of Anne, the UK's last circus elephant was broadcasted around the world in March. Many believed Anne would be the last elephant people would see chained and beaten in a British circus, but her plight which captured the public's heart appears to have meant nothing to David Cameron.
Politically there was cross party support with 189 MP's from all parties having signed EDM 403 calling for a ban, making this the 9th most signed EDM in Parliament out of 1790 motions tabled. A recent Dods poll by ADI also found overwhelming support for a ban on wild animal acts in the House of Commons with 63% of MPs in favour and 14% against. So as well as ignoring those who voted them into power, they have isolated themselves from their peers.
Government should be in no doubt that ADI will not rest until the appalling, demeaning spectacle of the use of wild animals in circuses is eradicated from the UK. Only then can the UK claim to be a nation of animal lovers and a world leader in animal protection.