Following a major exposé of circus animal abuse earlier this year by Animal Defenders International (ADI), the UK government is launching a public consultation on Monday 21 December concerning the use of animals in travelling circuses.
In August 2009, ADI revealed shocking treatment of elephants at the Great British Circus, which toured the UK this year. The exposé shows horrific, casual violence and environmental deprivation of animals. For example, the elephants were hit in the face, kept chained and barely able to move for up to 11 hours a day, and displayed disturbed, abnormal behaviour.
After pledging to ban wild animals in circuses in 2006, the government is finally revisiting the issue, prompted by ADI's investigation. ADI has been pushing for a ban for over ten years and presented detailed evidence of its most recent undercover exposé to DEFRA to urge them to act. As a result, DEFRA is starting a three-month survey aimed at gathering public opinion on whether animals should be banned from circuses.
ADI has been conducting extensive, undercover investigations showing horrific abuse of circus animals for many years. These have shown a repetitive pattern in the husbandry and treatment of animals, which includes physical abuse during training and close confinement, often for extended periods.
Following the shocking findings of ADI's 1998 investigation into the UK circus industry, a huge change took place in public attitudes towards animal circuses with 50% of British animal circuses closing in the six months that followed. However, some circuses still have wild animals and the cruelty towards them continues.
With 80% of the public wanting a ban on wild animals in circuses, ADI is urging people to voice their concerns to DEFRA and lead the way for the introduction of a circus ban in the UK. A ban on the use of wild animals is essential to ensure that they no longer suffer in travelling circuses. Given the circumstances of constant travel as the circuses move from location to location, and the cramped conditions the animals are confined to, it is clear that the animals cannot be adequately cared for in such an environment.
ADI investigations have shown that traditional policing methods or inspections cannot necessarily detect long-term husbandry problems, or physical abuse as inspectors can be misled by circuses. Unless the animals are observed for 24 hour periods over several days, without the knowledge of the workers, it is not possible to establish the true conditions behind the scenes of a circus.
In addition, despite the improved scope of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 over the previous legislation, bringing prosecutions against circuses remains complex, labour intensive and expensive, considering the large amounts of evidence needed.
ADI chief executive, Jan Creamer, said: "Two thirds of the public are in favour of ending the use of animals in circuses so it is time for people to speak out and urge the UK government to uphold their 2006 pledge to ban wild animals in circuses. With countries like Bolivia implementing bans and many others considering similar measures, the UK is falling behind in its standards of animal welfare. It is a disgrace that in 21st century Britain animals are still being beaten and chained up in the name of so-called entertainment."
[From ADI's Press Release]
If you want to voice your concerns about circuses, then contact:
Rt Hon Hilary Benn, Secretary of State DEFRA
Jim Fitzpatrick, DEFRA Minister
Mark Williams, Ceredigion MP (if you live in Ceredigion - otherwise your own MP!)
We will post any updates here, as usual.
Update 29 December 2009: We received the automated email below. Does it read as complete nonsense to anyone else? What the hell is box work? How do we consult the intranet or speak to someone in the private office?
----- Original Message -----We had another automated email from Defra, which states that you don't get a personal response if "your email is part of an organised campaign". What counts as an organised campaign? And anyway, if someone contacts them, aren't they duty-bound to respond? Sounds like they are creating excuses for ignoring the citizens they are meant to serve.
From: PS/Jim Fitzpatrick (Secretariat)
Sent: Monday, December 28, 2009 5:30 PM
We are not currently able to accept any box work.
If your enquiry is urgent please consult the secretariat intranet pages or speak to someone in the private office to discuss handling.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
----- Original Message -----
From: Helpline, Defra (CCU)
Sent: Monday, December 28, 2009 5:30 PM
Subject: Email to Defra helpline.
Thank you for your email. [...]
If your email is part of an organised campaign you will not receive an individual response from us [...]
Customer Contact Unit