London – Conservationist, author and former MEP Stanley Johnson and social justice campaigner Peter Tatchell returned to Downing Street today with Animal Defenders International (ADI) almost a year after the Prime Minister gave them a personal promise that wild animals in circuses would be banned. The delegation was joined by a host of cross-party MPs to deliver a petition signed by over 20,000 which calls on David Cameron to take action before the General Election to ensure the law, promised in 2012, is passed. Writing in The Sun yesterday, Stanley Johnson says “it will be tragic if the opportunity to make progress in the current Parliament is missed.”
Last April, the Prime Minister promised an ADI delegation headed by Tatchell and Johnson “We are going to do it” and has since committed to end what he calls an “outdated practice”. Despite the promises, little progress has been made, prompting a bill from Jim Fitzpatrick MP to bring the Government’s own draft legislation forward. Fitzpatrick has described it as “a small measure which will make a big difference to the wild animals currently performing in circuses across Britain”. Shockingly the bill, which enjoys cross-party support, has been repeatedly blocked by a Conservative MP.
Conservationist, former MEP and author Stanley Johnson said, “I urge the Prime Minister to fulfil the personal promise he made to me and Animal Defenders International last year and ensure that the wild animal circus ban passes before the election. The suffering of animals in circuses has been repeatedly exposed by Animal Defenders International, and must not go on any longer.”
Social justice campaigner Peter Tatchell said, “It is both disappointing and frustrating that this simple measure to end animal suffering has still not become law. David Cameron told me a year ago that he supported a ban and that it would happen. While Britain continues to allow the use of wild animals in circuses, a growing number of other countries do not. Together with Animal Defenders International, I call on the Government to secure the ban that David Cameron promised.”
ADI President Jan Creamer said, “It is difficult to comprehend that while Animal Defenders International is helping to enforce animal circus bans in Peru and Colombia, we are still trying to get this long-promised ban passed in Britain. If the Government fails to act on this issue it will have failed the animals and the public. We urge David Cameron to keep his promise and end the suffering of wild animals in circuses once and for all.”
The issue of animal circuses has become an embarrassing Parliamentary saga. In 2009, ADI exposed the abuse of elephants with the Great British Circus. The ensuing outrage led to a Government public consultation in 2010 which saw almost 95% of respondents back a ban on wild animal acts. In 2011, ADI exposed how Anne, an elderly elephant with Bobby Roberts Super Circus, was kept permanently chained and physically abused, resulting in a cruelty conviction for her owner. Backbench MPs followed this with a unanimous vote for a wild animal ban, and a year later the Government agreed to pass legislation. A Government Bill was drafted in 2013, but has been left to gather dust.
Only two circuses continue to tour with wild animals, with fewer than 20 animals. ADI revealed last week that Thomas Chipperfield – a relative of the notorious Mary Chipperfield who was prosecuted for animal cruelty following an ADI investigation – who presents the only lion and tiger circus act in Britain will not be touring with a circus this year. The act featured in Peter Jolly’s Circus last year, attracting widespread criticism and local protests.
Both Labour and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party have committed to banning the use of wild animals in circuses and ADI is urging all political parties to make election commitments to a ban.
Worldwide, 30 countries have national prohibitions on animal circuses and similar laws are under discussion in several more. Wales is committed to a ban and is seeking to be included in England’s legislation and Scotland is considering responses to a public consultation on the issue. Over 200 local authorities in the UK already have bans on the use of animals in circuses in place.
ADI is working with authorities to implement wild animal circus bans in Peru and Colombia and is currently caring for 30 lions and over 20 other animals rescued from circuses and the illegal pet trade. The organisation is seeking donations to complete its groundbreaking rescue mission ‘Operation Spirit of Freedom’ www.ad-international.org/SpiritofFreedom.
Last week, ADI announced fresh support from Brian Blessed for its ‘Stop Circus Suffering’ campaign in Britain which is backed by high profile supporters including Ricky Gervais, Sir Roger Moore, Brian May, Moby, Imelda Staunton, Eddie Izzard, Twiggy, Annette Crosbie, Julian Clary, Dominic West, Sir Paul McCartney and Dame Judi Dench.