New chapter in circus saga

Harry Huyton's avatar
Harry Huyton
11 February 2016

OneKind urges MPs to take every chance stand up for circus animals and press for these outmoded entertainments to be consigned to history, once and for all.

The use of wild animals in circuses was debated – yet again – in Parliament yesterday (Wednesday 10 February).  The Conservative MP for Colchester, Will Quince, introduced a Ten-Minute Rule Bill (a type of Private Member’s Bill) to prohibit the use of wild animals in circuses.

Noting the opposition to wild animal circuses expressed in most of the recent party manifestos (with Conservatives, Labour and Greens pledging to ban them), Will Quince described the issue as “one of those rare moments where there appears be a degree of consensus among all parties”. One of Will Quince’s objections to wild animal circuses was founded on “our basic respect for wild animals.”

He went on to say:

“Wild animals that have been used and kept in travelling circuses have the same genetic make-up as their counterparts in zoos or in the wild. Their instinctive behaviours remain. Using such animals to perform tricks and stunts hardly encourages people to respect the animals’ innate wild nature and value. Neither is there any educational, conservational nor research benefit from using the animals solely or primarily for such entertainment and spectacle.”

OneKind agrees with these comments and, like many other animal welfare charities, has been pressing this very argument for years. What is inexplicable to us is that the issue remains an issue at all.

Last year there were 18 wild animals being used by travelling circuses in England. There are no circuses based in Scotland, but that has not prevented circuses travelling north of the border.  For years, the Bobby Roberts Super Circus took their aged, arthritic elephant Anne around venues in Scotland, while more recently Thomas Chipperfield overwintered five circus big cats in Aberdeenshire, and attempted to use them for performances.

So the main point of banning wild animal circuses across the UK is to prevent any resurgence of their outmoded activities. Without a ban, there is nothing to stop the remaining circuses importing more elephants, big cats and other wild animal acts and trailing them around the UK.

OneKind wrote to all Scottish MPs this week, pointing out the close connection of circus activities in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and urging them to attend the debate.  We were pleased to see that Scottish MPs were present and that one – John Nicolson, the SNP Member for East Dunbartonshire – attempted to intervene.

Despite opposition from Christopher Chope MP - who has blocked numerous attempts by individual MPs to use the Private Member’s Bill procedure to legislate against wild animal circuses - the Bill was accepted and proceeds to its Second Reading on Friday 4 March. The risk is that, once again, a tiny number of MPs will use Parliamentary procedure to prevent the overwhelming will of the public and the basic principles of animal welfare, to prevent it proceeding further. Even so, OneKind will continue to urge MPs to take every chance stand up for circus animals and press for these outmoded entertainments to be consigned to history, once and for all.


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