A wildlife vet has joined a conservation ambassador to speak out against the “degrading and incredibly damaging” use of wild animals in British circuses.
Author, conservationist and former MEP Stanley Johnson said he was “deeply saddened” big cats and other wild animals are “continuing to suffer” in British circuses.
“I have worked to conserve and protect wildlife for many years, and it is of grave concern efforts to safeguard these same species in the wild is being undermined by those who continue to use them for cheap tricks, despite the opposition,” he said.
“It’s degrading and incredibly damaging. I fully support ADI’s campaign to stop circus suffering and hope we can pass a ban on wild animals in circuses before the general election.”
The footage was filmed by ADI at Peter Jolly’s Circus – the only big cat act in Britain. It features lions and tigers that can be seen performing one of a range of what ADI calls “abnormal, repetitive, ‘stereotypic’ behaviours”, which, it says, indicates “compromised welfare and suffering“.
Zoo and wildlife veterinary advisor Simon JR Adams said such stereotypic repetitive behaviour is a sign of “mental disease”, and is well recognised as an indicator of “poor standards of animal welfare”, where the enclosure is either “too small or barren to fulfil the animal’s natural behavioural needs”.
“This is a prime reason why the limited space available in a travelling circus is unsuitable to big cats, as patrolling their large territories in the wild is an essential behavioural drive, thwarted by the limited confines of circus accommodation no matter how hard the circus may try to accommodate them.
“It may be nice for the public to see them, but they should understand it is not nice for the poor big cats.”
The use of wild animals is still opposed by many, with their unpopularity seeing the number of circuses with such acts drop over the last 15 years to just two. Both are required to be licensed by Government, a temporary measure brought in last year ahead of a ban.
ADI opposed the licensing, saying such regulations are unable to protect the animals. Also, despite the Government repeatedly claiming the two circuses are inspected seven times a year, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) minister George Eustice has stated the Government has only inspected one of the circuses once and the other twice this year.
According to the ADI, the Government made a commitment in March 2012 to ban wild animals in circuses “at the earliest opportunity”. The Draft Wild Animals in Circuses Bill was subsequently published last April, yet progress has stalled and the bill has yet to be introduced to parliament. Responding to a letter from ADI signed by 75 celebrities and politicians, the Prime Minister has stated he remains committed to ban what he calls “an outdated practice“.
In a bid to secure the legislation by 2015, ADI is giving its support to a new backbench bill fronted by former Labour Defra minister Jim Fitzpatrick MP, to be introduced on September 3, which seeks to ban wild animal acts before the next election.
ADI president Jan Creamer said: “The evidence is clear – the circus is no place for wild animals. Until legislation is brought in, these animals will continue to suffer.
“Let’s get a ban passed before the next circus season is underway by backing the new circus bill as it progresses through Parliament. It’s time to stop circus suffering in Britain once and for all.”