We all appreciate the courage and skills of human performers in the circus - it takes years of dedication and training to perform those amazing tricks. But humans have a choice about whether they take part in the circus life.
Animals don’t. And for them - especially wild animals such as elephants, lions and tigers - the cost in suffering is simply too high. We think it’s time to let animals lead natural lives and leave circus displays for the humans.
Although there are relatively few wild animals used in circuses in the UK today, there is a persistent remnant of the industry where big cats, elephants, primates, camels, zebras and other exotic species are still used. Circuses with wild animals are still a common sight in many other EU countries. In addition to learning unnatural tricks, all circus animals have to undergo a routine of extreme confinement, frequent transport and relocation, and training for performance. This is a poor existence for any animal, but is particularly unsuitable for wild species.
Early in 2011, shocking evidence of cruelty to the elderly, arthritic elephant Anne, and other animals in the Bobby Roberts’ Super Circus emerged.
Fortunately, the expose of Anne’s suffering led to her being re-homed at last, aged 58. In November 2011 the owners of the circus were charged by the Crown Prosecution Service with:
- Causing the elephant to suffer unnecessarily, by requiring the elephant to be chained to the ground at all times, contrary to section 4(1) of the Animal Welfare Act 2006
- Failing to take reasonable steps to prevent their employee from causing unnecessary suffering to the elephant, by repeatedly beating it, contrary to section 4(2) of the same Act
- Failing to take reasonable steps to ensure that the needs of the elephant were met to the extent required by good practice, contrary to section 9 of the same Act. (The equivalent legislation in Scotland is the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, sections 19 and 24.)
Animal welfare laws passed in 2006 gave the UK government and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales powers to make regulations on a wide range of topics. There is now considerable scientific evidence that travelling circuses are not a suitable environment for wild animals. In a consultation on circuses in England (carried out under the previous UK government), 94.5% of respondents wanted to see an end to the use of wild animals in circuses. Read the OneKind response to the consultation (PDF).
OneKind believes that neither the UK Government nor the Scottish Government should delay any longer, but should introduce a long-awaited ban on the use of wild animals in circuses in both England and Scotland.
How we will achieve it
At present the UK government proposes not to ban wild animal circuses but to consult on a licensing scheme, a proposal that we see as entirely inadequate, as well as being expensive and difficult to enforce. Working with other animal welfare organisations in England, we continue to lobby UK politicians and to urge Ministers to take an enlightened stance on this issue.
Having our headquarters in Edinburgh, we are also campaigning for Scotland to lead the way in the UK by legislating as soon as possible to ban wild animal circuses. There are no such circuses based in Scotland but circuses do visit on tour and have given rise to animal welfare concerns. For example, see our report on a circus tour in 2009, when (as Advocates for Animals) we undertook considerable work to highlight the problems.
In September 2011, OneKind presented a petition to the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament, seeking a full ban on wild animal circuses in Scotland. You can read about the petition on the Committee web page and view the evidence session.
We will keep you updated on our progress and let you know of the next opportunity to take action to protect wild animals from the travelling circus life.
East Ayrshire Council is debating a ban on animal circuses from its land, at the Council meeting on Thursday 9 February 2012.