Pressure grows for circus ban on wild animals


MPs from all sides are to demand that the Prime Minister, David Cameron, drop his opposition to a ban on wild animals in circuses in what promises to be a highly charged debate in Parliament next week.

The Labour MP Rob Flello has secured a 90-minute adjournment hearing in Westminster Hall next Wednesday at which dozens of Tory, Liberal Democrat and Labour MPs are expected to join forces to put pressure on the Government to reverse its position.

Moves are also afoot to hold a longer debate with a vote in the main Commons chamber – which could cause substantial embarrassment to ministers, given that hundreds of backbenchers have expressed support for a ban.

The junior Environment minister Jim Paice was jeered and laughed at on 19 May when he admitted to MPs that the Government's reason for not acting – a supposed court case against a ban in Austria – did not exist.

However, he said he believed there soon would be a case and legal advice suggested a UK ban could be challenged under the Human Rights Act or the EU's Services Directive. It then emerged that civil servants from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs advised there were no human rights implications from a ban two years ago, and the European Commission cast doubt on whether the Services Directive could be used to block one.

The Coalition is thought to be split on the issue, with Mr Cameron's opposition to a ban at odds with the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's position.

Around 20 wild animals, including five tigers, perform tricks at three travelling circuses in England. The circuses say their animals are well treated. The RSPCA, the overwhelming majority of MPs who have expressed an opinion and more than 70 per cent of the public want an end to tigers, lions and elephants performing tricks in the big top.

The Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick, Mr Paice's predecessor as animal welfare minister, said he was "baffled" by the Coalition's approach. He said: "It was clear to me when I was a minister there was an urgent need to tackle this issue, and this need was overwhelmingly supported by public opinion. We explored all the arguments for and against a ban, and came down firmly in favour of ending the use of wild animals in circuses".

The Tory MP Mark Pritchard, secretary of the 1922 Committee, is working with counterparts in other parties to secure a debate in the Commons chamber. He said: "Whilst the adjournment debate is welcome, it is only for 90 minutes, which will limit the number of MPs who can speak. What is needed is a parliamentary debate with a voteable motion so the will of the House can finally be heard and seen."

To step up pressure, 10 animal welfare groups have formed an informal alliance to fight Defra's decision. As well as the RSPCA and the British Veterinary Association, the groups are Animal Aid, Animal Defenders International, Born Free Foundation, Captive Animals Protection Society, Care for the Wild International, Four Paws, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and World Society for the Protection of Animals.

Will Travers, chief executive of the Born Free Foundation, said: "The Government's position on this issue is untenable, and its excuses are paper-thin. Let's be clear: the previous administration was committed to a ban; the public and many parliamentarians want a ban; Lib Dem policy is to ban; the present Environment Secretary has made it clear she is 'minded' to ban. It would seem the only possible reasons for the current inaction are either government apathy or civil service resistance."

More than 25,000 people have signed The Independent's online petition calling for a ban. To sign, visit

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Glazier

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist historic buildi...

Recruitment Genius: Office and Customer Services Manager

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small but very busy (and f...

Recruitment Genius: Portfolio Administrator

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has become known a...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical and Electrical Engineer - Midlands

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrig...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot