OneKind has joined with other leading animal protection and welfare organisations in opposition to the UK Government’s continued pursuit of an inspection and licensing regime for wild animals in travelling circuses in England.
Public opinion on this matter was made clear in 2010, when 94.5% of those responding to a previous DEFRA consultation supported a full ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses. The same consultation gave respondents the option to support either a ban or inspections – and only 29.5% supported inspections.
More recently, backbench MPs at Westminster passed a motion directing the Government to introduce a ban. And on 1 March, the Government announced its long-term commitment “to pursue a ban on the use of [wild] animals [in circuses]”
At the same time, however, the Government declared that a ban would take time to introduce and in the meantime it would focus on introducing a complicated licensing regime.
Taking the view that the Government’s draft proposals actually represent a step backwards for animal welfare, the animal protection groups have decided not to take part in the public consultation. Participation could be seen as endorsement of an approach which not only creates unacceptable delay, but also risks creating an unjustified sense of public confidence in an inadequate regime.
In creating a licensing regime that sets some standards at far too low a level (less than the poorest zoo), the Government is ignoring the views of the majority of animal welfare organisations, the public and elected politicians.
Even more concerning is the fact that the consultation and Impact Assessment (IA) documents do not include clear provision supporting the commitment to introducing a ban, and no timetable is offered for moving towards a ban. The IA contains no reference to a ban as the ultimate aim of Government policy, even though the Government’s statement on 1 March indicated that “work to set out the ethical basis for a ban will proceed alongside the development of a licensing scheme.”
A joint statement condemning the Government’s approach has been issued by Animal Defenders International, Animal Aid, Born Free Foundation, Captive Animals’ Protection Society, Four Paws, OneKind and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. We understand that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has also decided not to participate in the consultation.
All of the groups believe that there is ample legal justification for introducing legislation to ban circuses with wild animals; and all urge the Government to bring it in, sooner rather than later.