Animal Defenders International (ADI) has renewed its call for the Welsh Government to prohibit the use of wild animals in circuses following a statement from Lesley Griffiths AM, Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs.
Ms Griffiths announced the findings of the public consultation on the introduction of a licensing or registration scheme for Mobile Animal Exhibits (MAEs) in Wales would be published in January 2018, confirming that almost 1,000 responses had been received, with most specifically responding to the question on banning wild animals in circuses, indicating “the strong public feeling on this matter”.
Jan Creamer, president of Animal Defenders International, said: “Travelling circuses simply cannot meet the needs of the animals, and the Welsh Government must act on the overwhelming evidence and will of the publicto ban the outdated use of wild animals without delay.”
The Welsh Government commissioned Professor Stephen Harris at Bristol University to undertake a reporton the welfare of wild animals in travelling circuses in 2015, and conducted a public consultation in October 2017on mobile animal exhibits, which asked respondents if a ban on wild animals in circuses should be considered.
The report by Professor Harris, published last year, concluded that “The available scientific evidence indicates that captive wild animals in circuses and other travelling animal shows do not achieve their optimal welfare requirements.”
The report also stated that “Life for wild animals in travelling circuses… does not appear to constitute either a ‘good life’ or a ‘life worth living’” with the expert analysis supporting a ban on wild animal circuses, as well as mobile zoos, on animal welfare grounds.
The Harris team consulted 658 experts and organisations around the world including 138 animal trainers/circuses, 206 lawyers/veterinarians with expertise in wild animal welfare, 107 people working for NGOs, 144 biologists, researchers, behavioural and species experts, 58 zoo and wild animal sanctuary staff and relevant government officials and wildlife experts.
The study included a review of 764 scientific reports and articles that had been peer-reviewed since 2007, following publication of the last UK Government report on the subject. The report noted that there had been “a substantial increase in the amount of information available” since the Government’s last report.
Commissioning the report in December 2015 Rebecca Evans, then Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, stated that “The Welsh Government believes there is no place for the use of wild animals in circuses”.
A ban is also supported by the Welsh Liberal Democrats and Welsh Conservatives who have stated that “The Welsh Liberal Democrats fully support the introduction of a ban as soon as possible…The Welsh public have been waiting long enough… it is now time for the Welsh Government to bring forward their own proposals so the use of this outdated practice in circuses touring Wales is finally brought to an end.”
And that the “Welsh Conservatives are clear – we would bring forward an outright ban on the use of wild animals in circuses in Wales, as soon as possible... Public support for a ban is exceptionally high, and a Welsh Conservative Government would utilise the powers at Wales’ disposal so our nation joins the growing list of countries across the world to have implemented a ban.”
Responding to the public consultation ADI and supporters urged the Welsh Government to introduce a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses at the earliest opportunity. Although animals in mobile animal exhibits suffer a number of similar welfare issues, there are distinct welfare issues associated with the use of animals in travelling circuses, and the constant travel and confinement they are subjected to.
Given the constant travel and their temporary nature, circuses cannot provide animals with adequate facilities to keep them physically or psychologically healthy. Welfare is inevitably compromised. Animals in circuses can also be subjected to brutal training methods and violence – wherever ADI has conducted an undercover investigation in the UK and around the world it has documented acts of abuse. Animal circuses do nothing to teach people about the animals’ real needs and the way they live, and have no role to play in education or conservation.
Despite there currently being no wild animal circuses in Wales, circuses with such acts do visit from England and three have visited Wales in recent years, Circus Mondao, Peter Jolly’s Circus and an Evening with Lions and Tigers. With no bar to wild animal circuses in place, the door is open to others joining them.
The continued use of wild animals in circuses is opposed by animal welfare experts, animal protection groups, politicians and a huge majority of the public.
The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) has concluded “there is by no means the possibility that their [wild mammals in traveling circuses’] physiological, mental and social requirements can adequately be met.” and the British Veterinary Association that “The welfare needs of non-domesticated, wild animals cannot be met within a travelling circus - in terms of housing or being able to express normal behaviour.”
More than 40 countries around the world have introduced prohibitions on animals in circuses to date and opinion polls consistently show that the public remains overwhelmingly opposed to wild animal acts, with a high proportion against all animal acts.
In Scotland, the government has introduced a bill to ban wild animals in circuses which is progressing through parliament, while in Ireland regulations were signed last month banning such acts.
Meanwhile in England, the government has stated that it remains committed to a ban but has given no indication as to when the legislation, drafted and scrutinised back in 2013, will be introduced.