Legal challenge used to block circus animals ban
The Government’s used a non-existent court challenge as an excuse for blocking a ban on wild animal in circuses, it was claimed today.
Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, and the Animal Welfare Minister James Paice both told MPs last week that they could not introduce the policy because of a legal challenge against a ban in Austria. However Austrian court officials confirmed that the only legal challenge against the Austrian ban was thrown out by the European Ombudsman a year ago.
Ms Spelman, who was forced by Downing Street to back down over the proposed sell-off of public forests, now faces having to apologise to MPs for misleading the Commons.
Shadow Environment Secretary Mary Creagh accused Defra ministers of using “the non-existent Austrian court case as political cover for their failure to ban wild animals in circuses”.
She said: “Caroline Spelman should come to Parliament and apologise once more for misleading MPs.”
Defra officials briefed that a ban was imminent last month after pictures showed a circus trainer beating Anne the elephant. Downing Street then intervened to block the move, prompting Defra instead to propose a licensing system for the 20 tigers, zebras and other wild animals in the big top.
Suggesting “press reports” about a legal challenge to Austria’s ban were behind the U-turn, Mr Paice told Commons questions last Thursday: “Whether we like it or not, this court case is going on in Europe and therefore the British Government could not bring forward a proposal... that might well prove shortly to be unlawful.”
Asked to congratulate The Independent on its campaign for a ban, Ms Spelman told MPs: “It would be irresponsible of any Government... to recommend something that is under legal dispute.”
She referred again to the legal challenge in a Commons written answer the next day which confirmed there would be no ban.
Animal Defenders International, which this year shot the undercover footage of Anne the elephant, obtained confirmation there was no such challenge from Austria’s Constitutional Court and the European Court of Justice. The Austrian embassy in London confirmed to The Independent that the case had been closed.
Defra declined to say whether its ministers had misled the Commons. It said: “We are looking into Animal Defenders International’s statement. We continue to believe that a tough new licensing scheme is the best way of protecting these animals.”
Jan Creamer, chief executive of ADI said: “We have proven that Government has got its facts woefully wrong and there is no current legal challenge in the Austrian courts. There is nothing to block Government enacting a ban, and they should now get on with what they had been quoted as being ‘minded’ to do.”
Harvey Locke, president of the British Veterinary Assocation, said the Government had acted “without first checking the full facts.” He added: “I cannot stress too strongly that the welfare needs of non-domesticated, wild animals cannot be met within the environment of a travelling circus, especially in terms of accommodation and the ability to express normal behaviour.”
Greenland’s dark snow may start global warming ‘feedback loop’
Climate change march: Investors pledge to take their money out of firms blamed for climate change
Climate change means rate of growth of trees has gone up by 77%
Badger found shot in the abdomen is 'proof' that cull is inhumane, activists say
Rockefellers go green: Rockefeller foundation divests funds in fossil fuel industries
- 1 Rihanna 'nude pictures' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 2 iOS 8 apps and features: eight iPhone settings you need to look at after you install the update
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 4 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 5 Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
£60000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client in the Financial...
£110 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cambridge: English Teacher needed for ...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: Year 3/4 Teacher Needed in Flintshire ...
£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...