Vets disappointed at Defra climbdown on circus animals

Photo courtesy of Captive Animals' Protection Society

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has reacted with disappointment at the Government’s decision to introduce a licensing regime rather than impose an outright ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses.

Defra Secretary of State Caroline Spelman announced today that a ban on circus animals could not be introduced in the UK now because a ban introduced in Austria is currently being challenged under European law. In a written ministerial statement she said that the Government will now draw up standards for a new licensing regime.

Commenting BVA President Harvey Locke said:

“The BVA strongly supported a ban because we believe the welfare of these animals is emblematic of the way we treat all animals under the care of humans. 

“The welfare needs of non-domesticated, wild animals cannot be met within the environment of a travelling circus; especially in terms of accommodation and the ability to express normal behaviour.  A licensing scheme will not address these issues.”

Together with the RSPCA, Captive Animals’ Protection Society and the Born Free Foundation, the BVA has wholeheartedly supported The Independent’s campaign to ban wild animals in circuses.  Over 15,000 people have signed The Independent’s online petition, which is still open. Mr Locke will be joining representatives from these groups to present the petition to Downing Street next week.

Mr Locke added:

“Although it only affects a small number of animals at present there is no guarantee that the number of wild animals in circuses won’t increase in the future and, despite the best intentions, the needs of these animals cannot be met adequately by the environmental conditions of a travelling circus.

“As soon as the Austria situation is resolved, we would urge the Government to reconsider and take action to prohibit the exploitation of these majestic animals whose existence in the confines of a circus is solely to entertain people.”

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