Ministers under pressure over failure to ban circus animals
Monday 09 May 2011
Government ministers are to be put under pressure in Parliament this week over their failure to bring forward plans to ban wild animals performing in circuses.
Labour frontbenchers intend to raise the lack of progress in announcing the measure at environment questions in the Commons on Thursday.
The Independent revealed last week that Downing Street had blocked proposals by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for a ban, in an apparent attempt to reduce the flow of new regulations.
Since Friday, almost 7,000 people have signed our petition calling for the Government to rethink and announce a timetable for a ban.
Defra ministers have repeatedly indicated they want one, but failed to take advantage of a groundswell of public support last month during the row over the beating of Anne the elephant at Bobby Roberts Super Circus.
Gavin Shuker, Labour's shadow environment minister said he was "delighted" to support our campaign. He said: "When the Labour Government consulted the public last year on a ban it received overwhelming support, yet since the election the new Government has sat on the issue.
"Following the shocking revelations of cruelty towards Anne the elephant it looked like the Government might change its mind. It now appears Number 10 have slapped down all talk of a ban as 'red tape'. I have again written to Lord Henley [the Defra minister] today urging him to listen to expert advice and the public and come forward with plans for an outright ban."
In the letter, Mr Shuker wrote: "Is this another example of shambolic policy making at Defra following theU-turn over forests? Or yet more proof that the department responsible for nature and animal welfare is being increasingly sidelined?"
Labour gave an "unequivocal" commitment to introduce a ban on wild animals in circuses at last year's general election. The Liberal Democrats are also committed to a ban.
About 20 exotic animals, including tigers, zebras, camels and pythons, are still used by three circuses – the Great British Circus, Peter Jolly's Circus and Circus Mondao, all of which say they are well cared for.
Animal welfare groups and vets back a ban, citing small enclosures, constant travel and performances in front of loud crowds. Public support for a ban has ranged from 63 to 80 per cent during the past decade. Last year 94 per cent of responses to a government consultation were in favour of a ban.
The RSPCA, British Veterinary Association, Born Free Foundation and Captive Animals' Protection Society are all backing The Independent's campaign. Virginia McKenna, the actress who played the conservationist Joy Adamson in the film Born Free and the founder of the Born Free Foundation, said: "Have our ministers and Defra civil servants actually considered the circus life that a lion, a tiger, an elephant, a bear must endure – confined for endless hours in a trailer or beast wagon, rattled round the country from town to town to perform mindless tricks while blaring music and dazzling lights conspire to make the public ignore the reality of life behind the 'show'?"
Her son Will Travers, the chief executive of the Born Free Foundation, accused both Labour and the Coalition of dithering over the issue. He said: "The previous administration was ponderous and lacklustre on this issue and we were waiting for years – and this administration have taken an inordinate time period to deal with this."
HOW TO BACK THE CAMPAIGN
Join our campaign by signing our online petition for the Government to set out a timetable for banning wild animals from the big top. We will present the petition to Downing Street. To sign it and read more about the campaign, visit independent.co.uk/circusanimals
Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Easy living: The truth about modern communes
Frilled shark: Australian fishermen capture terrifying shark from the deep
Pope Francis calls for a new system of global government to tackle climate change
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down
- 1 What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
- 2 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 3 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 4 Bob Geldof offers to take four refugee families into his home 'immediately' as he condemns humanitarian crisis as a ‘f**king disgrace'
- 5 Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...
£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...
£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...
£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...