Good news from Austria, on 21 December, the Austrian Constitutional Court published its opinion on a challenge by Germany’s Circus Krone to Austria’s decision to ban the use of wild animals in circuses.
The Austrian Court found that, while a ban on using wild animals in circuses could interfere with the right to practise “every kind of gainful activity”, such interference was based on public interest (the protection of animals) and was both necessary and appropriate to achieve this goal. Interference with the applicant’s right was justified and proportionate.
What this means for the UK is that concern about the legality of any English or Scottish ban on wild animal circuses, either under the European Convention on Human Rights or the EC Services Directive, is almost certainly unfounded. Fear of a legal challenge has been cited by the UK government as a key argument against the swift introduction of a ban by Westminster, despite overwhelming Parliamentary and public support for such a measure.
Referring to ‘legal obstacles’ and the ‘the Austrian case’, DEFRA Ministers were intending to introduce a complicated licensing system which risked actually increasing the numbers of animals being used in circuses and would have been extremely difficult to enforce.
The Scottish Government, while it has not given a clear view on its plans, has consulted Westminster and cited many of the same arguments in its response to the OneKind petition to the Scottish Parliament, which calls for an immediate ban.
OneKind is supporting the initiatives of Born Free, CAPS, and the RSPCA and others who are urgently seeking clarification and assurances from Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman MP, that the government will move with all speed to bring the curtain down on the use of wild animals in circuses in England. We also continue to take the lead in urging the Scottish Government to ban travelling circuses with wild animals immediately. With no circuses based in Scotland, there can be no possible reason to delay.
The Court’s opinion (in German) is available here.