An overwhelming majority of the public backs a ban on wild animals performing in circuses. A total of 71 per cent favour a ban, with 21 per cent opposed and 7 per cent saying they don’t know, according to an opinion poll commissioned by The Independent.
The Government is expected to announce within days that it has rejected a ban in favour of a system of voluntary self-regulation by circuses.
Ministers in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are sympathetic to ending the days of wild animals in the big top but Downing Street has blocked a ban because of concerns about increasing “red tape”, according to animal welfare organisations.
Around 20 wild animals including tigers, zebras and pythons perform in three British circuses. The Great British Circus is breeding lions for future performances.
More than 1,000 members of the public were surveyed about the issue by pollsters ComRes on 3 May. They were asked: “Would you support or oppose a ban on the use of wild animals such as lions and tigers from circuses?”
A ban was backed by supporters of all three main political parties – Conservatives by 70 per cent, Labour by 76 per cent and Liberal Democrats by 83 per cent.
Support was lower among followers of the SNP (64 per cent), Ukip (43 per cent) and BNP (41 per cent). But even in those parties – and in every one of the 30 political, geographic and demographic groups surveyed – there was no majority support for the status quo.
Women were more in favour of a ban than men (76 per cent versus 66 per cent), and younger people more in favour than old.
Support for a ban was slightly stronger among people in lower social classes D and E (75 per cent) than among A and B professionals (70 per cent).
The findings are consistent with the results of previous opinion polls. A MORI poll in 1999 found 72 per cent support for a ban, rising to 80 per cent in 2005. A year later Ipsos-MORI found 63 per cent and ICM 64 per cent of people in favour of a ban.
More than 10,000 people have signed The Independent’s online petition calling for the Government to announce a ban, while hundreds of Twitterers have urged their followers to sign.
The three circuses – the Great British Circus, Circus Mondao and Peter Jolly’s – say their wild animals are well cared for, are not forced to perform tricks and have large enough enclosures.
Animal welfare experts at the RSPCA and the British Veterinary Association, among others, say wild animals should not perform tricks in the big top because of the constant travel, loud crowds, and smaller enclosures than those in zoos.
Animal Defenders International, the organisation which shot the undercover footage of a groom beating Anne the elephant at Bobby Roberts Super Circus, yesterday gave its support.
ADI has been campaigning to end the use of wild animals in circuses for a decade. Helder Constantino, its head of parliamentary affairs, said: “It’s time for the Government to end this anachronism once and for all, and ADI wholeheartedly support The Independent’s campaign to ban the use of animals in circuses.”
The petition has been so succesful that we have decided to double the petition target to 20,000 signatories. Please help by sharing this article and links to the petition at independent.co.uk/circusanimals
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DEFRA wants to stop wild animals in the UK circus but the government has other ideas …. Now the pressure is on. ‘The Independent’ broke and follows the story
Government ministers are to be put under pressure in Parliament this week over their failure to bring forward plans to ban wild animals performing in circuses.
Labour frontbenchers intend to raise the lack of progress in announcing the measure at environment questions in the Commons on Thursday.
The Independent revealed last week that Downing Street had blocked proposals by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for a ban, in an apparent attempt to reduce the flow of new regulations.
Since Friday, almost 7,000 people have signed our petition calling for the Government to rethink and announce a timetable for a ban.
Defra ministers have repeatedly indicated they want one, but failed to take advantage of a groundswell of public support last month during the row over the beating of Anne the elephant at Bobby Roberts Super Circus.
Gavin Shuker, Labour’s shadow environment minister said he was “delighted” to support our campaign. He said: “When the Labour Government consulted the public last year on a ban it received overwhelming support, yet since the election the new Government has sat on the issue.
“Following the shocking revelations of cruelty towards Anne the elephant it looked like the Government might change its mind. It now appears Number 10 have slapped down all talk of a ban as ‘red tape’. I have again written to Lord Henley [the Defra minister] today urging him to listen to expert advice and the public and come forward with plans for an outright ban.”
In the letter, Mr Shuker wrote: “Is this another example of shambolic policy making at Defra following theU-turn over forests? Or yet more proof that the department responsible for nature and animal welfare is being increasingly sidelined?”
Labour gave an “unequivocal” commitment to introduce a ban on wild animals in circuses at last year’s general election. The Liberal Democrats are also committed to a ban.
About 20 exotic animals, including tigers, zebras, camels and pythons, are still used by three circuses – the Great British Circus, Peter Jolly’s Circus and Circus Mondao, all of which say they are well cared for.
Animal welfare groups and vets back a ban, citing small enclosures, constant travel and performances in front of loud crowds. Public support for a ban has ranged from 63 to 80 per cent during the past decade. Last year 94 per cent of responses to a government consultation were in favour of a ban.
The RSPCA, British Veterinary Association, Born Free Foundation and Captive Animals’ Protection Society are all backing The Independent’s campaign. Virginia McKenna, the actress who played the conservationist Joy Adamson in the film Born Free and the founder of the Born Free Foundation, said: “Have our ministers and Defra civil servants actually considered the circus life that a lion, a tiger, an elephant, a bear must endure – confined for endless hours in a trailer or beast wagon, rattled round the country from town to town to perform mindless tricks while blaring music and dazzling lights conspire to make the public ignore the reality of life behind the ‘show’?”
Her son Will Travers, the chief executive of the Born Free Foundation, accused both Labour and the Coalition of dithering over the issue. He said: “The previous administration was ponderous and lacklustre on this issue and we were waiting for years – and this administration have taken an inordinate time period to deal with this.”
HOW TO BACK THE CAMPAIGN
Join our campaign by signing our online petition for the Government to set out a timetable for banning wild animals from the big top. We will present the petition to Downing Street. To sign it and read more about the campaign, visit independent.co.uk/circusanimals
Zoo breeding programme should be ready to help species long term
From The Independent today : When breeding programs are successful, endangered species are saved from extinction. But if too many animals are born, zoos have to take drastic steps
Woodcutter joke : selective felling = select a tree and cut it.
MY COMMENT: I was a zookeeper for one year in New Zealand and agree that ‘Population management of animals remains a complex and sensitive subject’. I am of the opinion that, once a zoo takes in an animal, it should be prepared and have the necessary resources – financial, expert and otherwise – to successfully carry out a plan of action for named animal. In nature, once you begin to influence the natural balance, eg. by hunting/so removing predators (****), you should/have a moral obligation to continue to influence that same balance. So too I believe with zoos; once you start (the conservation programme, don’t stop!…. Of course, some argue that zoos are artificial and NOT natural places, and can/must adapt their programmes – including ‘culling’.
A debate was sparked last week when stories emerged that Edinburgh Zoo was planning to cull three of its red river hog piglets because they were “surplus to requirement”. While the zoo has since stressed that it has no current plans to euthanise the animals and that the story was inaccurately reported, it did cull two other piglets last August.
While we are familiar with culling animals in the wild, the idea that this also goes on in zoos has proved much more controversial, it seeming at odds with the premise of breeding programmes. So why do zoos ever make the unusual decision of killing their animals?
The European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) is a type of population management for rarer species of animals that are found in zoos. One person is assigned a species and is in charge of producing a plan for the future management of it and co-ordinating its breeding through a process called “recommendation”.
Recommendations are made each year on which animals should breed or not breed, and which individual animals should go from one zoo to another or on breeding loans. When faced with more animals, the EEP can recommend that the zoo cull the surplus, as happened last year.
A spokesperson for Edinburgh Zoo explains why animals are allowed to breed even if they don’t want any more: “While the red river hog is not currently classed as endangered, it is conservation-dependent due to excessive hunting in its natural habitat in West Central Africa. The category status of any animal, however, always has the potential to worsen in the future. Therefore, all zoos are advised that their animals should remain able to breed, as restricting natural breeding activity or administering contraception can prove detrimental to health and future reproduction. Of course, this often leads to new introductions to the zoo population.”
As money can be scarce, rehousing is not always an option. “As a registered charity, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland has to remain mindful of the resources it has available,” the zoo says. “When we are unable to accommodate new additions to our facilities, rehoming is always our top priority, but there are various restrictions involved that make it easier said than done. Animals within the EEP zoo structure must be rehomed within it, or similar bodies within the developed world, to maintain control over their location and welfare. Many facilities within the EEP structure share a similar range of species and, therefore, are not in a position to accommodate more of the same.”
However, animal charities have questioned zoo culls and the reasoning behind them. Libby Anderson, a director at animal protection charity OneKind, has said: “Each animal is an individual and I don’t think they can possibly justify killing hogs simply because they are deemed surplus to the requirements of a breeding programme.”
Population management of animals remains a complex and sensitive subject, but, happily for the three piglets, they are safe for the time being.
The Independent reports how a killer whale in Orlando, Florida, has caused the death of a Sea World trainer.
MY VIEW: A wildlife holiday to Signifjord in Iceland, my wife and I were priviledged indeed to witness a huge group or ‘pod’ of Orca (comonly called ”killer whales’) chasing salmon. The orca were swam directly alongside our small boats and, with the sun catching the spray of the waves and the stunning snow-covered peaks of the fjord set as the backdrop, it was a sight to behold! Was I afraid these magjestic creatures – essentially large dolphins – were going to harm us perhaps by attacking the boat? No. These were wild animals, doing what they do best – moving, diving, hunting – fish!
Whilst I am sorry for family of the trainer who was obviously well-intentioned in being a long-term staffer, and cannot guess to understand the circumstances. Do I agree with the idea of orcas in captivity, penned up to an inch of their lives in totally claustrophobic kennels? No, I am appalled that it still happens, and all rational reasons are swept aside when we consider the realities of what we are asking of these large and highly intelligent mammals. Want to help out in the cause? Get involved with one of these charities: Born Free Foundation and Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.
The Independent article in full