No 10 blocks plan to ban wild animals performing in circuses

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Campaigners' hopes are set to be dashed as Government opts instead for self-regulation

A A A

Downing Street has blocked plans by ministers to ban lions, tigers and other wild animals from performing in circuses, according to animal welfare groups.

For 12 months ministers at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have repeatedly indicated their support for stopping wild animals performing tricks in the big top, but No 10, which wishes to reduce Government regulation, is understood to have vetoed the decision during the past fortnight.

Ministers are expected to announce a system of self-regulation by circuses within days.

Animal welfare campaigners, who say concerns about the size of enclosures, constant travel and loud crowds mean circuses should not keep wild animals, are furious at the U-turn. With the backing of the RSPCA and the British Veterinary Association, which represents 12,000 vets, The Independent today launches a campaign calling for the Prime Minister to rethink and announce a timetable for a ban.

One would ensure that circuses cannot use tigers or zebras now and rule out the future importation of species such as giraffes and bears, which are used in foreign circuses but are not presently on tour here.

Amid widespread public disapproval, the number of circuses using wild animals has fallen steadily from 20 in 1997 to three today. They use more than 20 animals. The Great British Circus is touring with at least five tigers and two camels, and is breeding lions for future performances. Peter Jolly's Circus has four pythons, a zebra, a camel and one horned African cattle called an ankole, while Circus Mondao has two zebras and two camels. All three circuses say their animals are well looked after, travel only short distances and are not harmed by their trainers.

Groups such as the RSPCA say scientific evidence suggests they have only a quarter of the minimum recommended space they would have in zoos, and that their training, transportation and performance is likely to damage their mental wellbeing.

Defra ministers have tended to agree. Labour's Ben Bradshaw announced his intention to ban wild animals from circuses five years ago but it never happened, prompting his successor Jim Fitpatrick to say he was "minded" to introduce a ban last March, after the idea was backed by 94 per cent of more than 10,000 responses to a government consultation.

Since the general election, Conservative ministers have frequently said they are "minded" to back a ban.

Animal welfare organisations say the row over the publication last month of pictures showing a trainer at Bobby Robert's Circus beating Anne the Elephant gave the Government a "perfect opportunity" to act. Yesterday, Defra said of its impending announcement: "We can't really comment on what it's going to cover."

Six countries – Austria, Croatia, Israel, Bolivia, Costa Rica and Singapore – have already banned all wild animals in circuses, while partial bans are in place in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and India. Harvey Locke, president of the British Veterinary Association, said: "Although it affects only a small number of animals, the BVA feels their welfare needs and the needs of future animals could not be met adequately by the environmental conditions of a travelling circus. We would urge the Government to go ahead with a ban."

Liz Tyson, director of the Captive Animals' Protection Society, said: "From an ethical standpoint, there is no justification for people to teach animals tricks or to force them to perform for our entertainment. We regularly get people saying to us: 'I can't believe this is still legal.' People make the assumption that we have got the highest standards for animal welfare in the world but the reality is that we are falling behind – Bolivia introduced a ban on the use of all animals in circuses in 2009."

Sophie Coles, spokeswoman for Peter Jolly's Circus said their animals were well looked after. The circus did not use lions or tigers but could consider using them in future, she added.

She said: "We travel short distances, usually no more than 20 miles. They [the animals] come out and they just go into a field. They are in their travelling lorries for a short time. It's in our business interests to look after them."

A spokesman for Martin Lacey, who runs the Great British Circus, said: "If there was anything wrong, the RSPCA would prosecute, the same as anyone who keeps cats or dogs. He has been in the business for more than 40 years. He has never had a problem. The message to all the animal welfare people is instead of going to the papers, go through the proper channels."

He added: "The last Government was talking about it. They're always talking about it."

To sign the petition calling for a ban on wild animals in circuses visit: http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/circusanimals



Q&A

Why ban wild animals in circuses?

They have less space than they have in zoos, travel the country in cramped transportation and perform in front of loud crowds. In 2009, Bristol University reviewed the scientific studies and found many animals, particularly large wild ones, exhibited repetitive behaviour such as repeatedly pacing. They concluded: "We argue there is no evidence to suggest that the natural needs of non-domesticated animals can be met through living conditions and husbandry offered by circuses."



What species would be banned?

Elephants, lions, tigers, zebras, crocodiles, camels and other wild animals. The ban would not affect domesticated species such as dogs and horses.



What would happen to the animals?

The RSPCA is very confident it and other groups could rehome the 20 or so wild animals used in circuses in sanctuaries, private collections and wildlife parks where they would have more space and less stress. Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire took in Anne the Elephant last month within days of footage showing her being beaten by her circus trainer.



Does the public support a ban?

Yes. Polling by reputable organisations has repeatedly shown widespread support for a ban. Over the past 10 years the level of support has ranged from 63 to 80 per cent. During the public consultation published last year, 94.5 per cent of respondents supported a ban.



What does the Government say?

Ministers at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have repeatedly said they are "minded" to back a ban. Yesterday Defra said it would not express its intentions before its announcement, expected in two weeks.

Martin Hickman





Suggested Topics
News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsAll just to promote a new casino
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C++ Quant Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

Java/Calypso Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Java/Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, J2EE, J...

SQL Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer SQL, C#, Stored Procedures, MDX...

Front-Office Developer (C#, .NET, Java, AI)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-Office D...

Day In a Page

Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband