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 independent.co.uk/circusanimals
Woodpecker and weasel: This is what the photographer has to say about the incredible picture
At long last, Australia is able to halt the relentless advance of the cane toad
The ugliest animals on earth: Blobfish, axolotl and proboscis monkey battle it out to be named least attractive beast
Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 3 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 4 African jawbone discovery pushes birth of humanity back by 400,000 years
- 5 The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin
£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist historic buildi...
£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small but very busy (and f...
£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has become known a...
£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrig...