Examination of Witnesses (Questions 506-519)|
16 SEPTEMBER 2004
Q506 Chairman: Good morning. I feel almost
like revealing my age because in my days of listening to radio
on a Saturday morning the children's programme used to been introduced
by a man called Uncle Mac and Uncle Mac used to say: "Are
you sitting comfortably, then we will begin". I can see you
are all now seated comfortably. The fact there was not a flicker
on any witness's face means that they are all considerably younger
than me. You are very welcome to our evidence session on the Draft
Animal Welfare Bill. For the record, before us we have the Association
of Circus Proprietors of Great Britain, represented by Malcolm
Clay, their secretary; Mr James Clubb, an animal trainer, and
Martin Burton, the proprietor of a travelling circus. Is that
right, Mr Burton?
Martin Burton: Yes.
Q507 Chairman: What is the name of the
Martin Burton: Zippo's Circus.
Q508 Chairman: We also have, representing
the Performing Animals Welfare Standards International, PAWSI,
which I think is rather nice if looking at cats and dogs, Rona
Brown, their Chief Executive Officer, and Peter Scott, their veterinary
adviser. You are all very welcome. I want to ask you the same
question we have asked all our witnesses, it is a very simple
starter for 10, which is: given the weight of evidence which the
Committee is considering, if you wanted to make certain there
was one thing that we did not forget that you were in favour of
the bill about, that assumes there is anything in it you like.
Conversely, if there is one key issue of your area of concern
about The Bill that you would not want us to forget. Perhaps Mr
Clay, you might like to start on behalf of your organisation.
Malcolm Clay: On the positive
side, we welcome legislation which now seeks to regulate circuses.
We are a surprisingly unregulated industry. We have been saying
for a long time that we should have in the interests of animal
welfare certainly regulation. I must point out that we are not
a compulsory body so we tend to represent those circuses which
have a very progressive view of animal welfare and not all of
circuses. If we are going to move towards specific circus legislation
which takes into account how circus animals are kept and trained
as distinct from animals in zoos and animals which are kept under
the Dangerous Wild Animal Act we welcome that. What gives us considerable
concern is the lack of any detail in this bill and the fact that
we could very well have regulation without proper public debate.
What we desperately want to see is specific circus animal welfare
legislation which, properly is debated, rather than legislation
which is going to be introduced in a very secondary manner with
no guarantee of inquiries or informed veterinary opinion and particularly
public debate. I think we need to recognise that there are those
people who are very supportive of circuses and do love to go and
see them, have a real interest in training animals. There are
those people whose views you have to acknowledge are totally opposed
to circuses. In the middle there is a vast majority of the public
who like to see animals but are perhaps indifferent or ambivalent
about circuses but do expect there to be control and regulation
of them but do not want to see them disappear.
Q509 Chairman: Fine. That was succinct
and clear. Rona Brown?
Rona Brown: We represent the animal
trainers that work in the film, TV and theatre world of entertainment.
The things we like about the bill is that, hopefully, it will
be mandatory for a duty of care towards animals that we look after
and work and train. We also would prefer for there to be some
specifics for animals that work in the film industry. Although
what is in there already we like, although it is not written in
there it is written or has been said in other ways that we can
move towards the people who are not licensed to take animals to
a film set and work with them. This is where we have our biggest
concern. We would like to see that in the legislation that the
licensed people only should be the people who go and work animals.
Q510 Chairman: Mr Clay, yesterday we
heard from an organisation called Born Free, which was implacably
opposed to wild animals, as they put it, being in circuses. They
painted a graphic picture of poor conditions, lack of space for
animals both in their travelling circumstances and in what they
described as their winter quartering. If you took everything they
said at face value you could well move to their position to say:
the use of wild animals trained for performance and titillation
of audiences in the 21st century is something that we should ban.
How do you react to that?
Malcolm Clay: I think that, listening
to what Animal Defenders have to say, was it Animal Defenders
or Born Free?
Q511 Chairman: Born Free.
Malcolm Clay: I have to say you
can certainly pick out very bad examples, which is why we need
regulation and legislation, but there is nothing wrong with the
concept of the illustration of the rapport between the animal
and the trainer, provided that you can illustrate that the standards
of animal welfare which are being imposed in that situation by
way of the keeping, the exercise area, the veterinary care and
the transport, you cannot say that all circuses and all wild animal
training is bad when they are citing one particular example. I
do not know whether they were talking about in the UK or elsewhere
because the standards across Europe certainly differ vastly.
Q512 Chairman: I notice you did not immediately
rebut the line that they put particularly over the question of
the physical environment in which the animals were kept. My knowledge
of circuses and animals is very hazy; it is a long time since
I went to one. Animals as opposed to human beings doing exciting
and interesting things, perhaps you might like to just say a word
or two (a) about the conditions in which the animals are kept,
and (b) the justification for taking animals, which most people
would regard as wild, I think they were talking principally about
lions, tigers, bears, this kind of thing, and training them for
the entertainment of people. Could you talk about the justification
of that and also the physical circumstances?
Malcolm Clay: Sorry if I did not
make myself clear. The point I make is that: yes, I am sure you
can find situations which are unacceptable, not necessarily people
who are being most deliberately cruel but people who do not know
any better. You are being quoted probably the worst example that
could be found and a situation which my Association certainly
would not support, which is why we want the legislation. Could
I ask Mr Clubb to talk to you on the performing animal concept?
Q513 Chairman: Yes, I would be grateful.
James Clubb: It is certainly clear
that animals, let us talk about wild animals, benefit from training.
I feel it is better to entertain the animals, stimulate their
minds, than just shut them up and look at them. This stimulation
can take various forms, one being training. Circuses do vary worldwide.
There are many circuses that are keeping their animals in bad
conditions and there are many circuses that keep animals in good
conditions. There is no reason why a circus cannot keep its animals
in good conditions and employ humane methods of training. I do
not think there is any question over the training methods any
more within, let us say, the UK. I can only speak of the UK. Perhaps
the housing is a different matter, but when you consider that
I can only think of one circus in the UK that keeps wild animals
now I do not really see it a major problem, but it is regulation
on the keeping of the animals rather than an outright ban on them,
ie, if somebody wants to keep, I do not know, performing lions,
the regulations must fit the case for keeping lions. As far as
other animals are concerned, the regulations might be much harder
and, therefore, the circus could not comply. All I ask is that
regulation be achievable otherwise there is no point in having
Chairman: Mr Mitchell?
Q514 Mr Mitchell: Did you want to come
back, Mr Clay?
Malcolm Clay: I just wanted make
the quick point because we do tend to forget the difference between,
say, zoo animals and circus animals where zoo animals are just
being displayed. Circus animals are being handled and groomed
and exercised and do lead a quite different life in most cases
from zoo animals, display animals generally, and have this human
contact in the exercise.
Q515 Mr Mitchell: The argument seems
to be that rather than have a ban that the use of wild animals
in circuses is declining anyway and might well fade away. Why
James Clubb: The decline is really
due to the fact that local authorities, councils, do not permit
performing wild animals on their sites. The reason for this is
because they are under constant threat of the people that disagree
with performing animals and it is far easier just not to let the
circus on the site with wild animals.
Q516 Mr Mitchell: Is that a pattern?
Some authorities do allow it, some do not?
James Clubb: Yes. Some do, some
do not. It is much easier if it is an area where they are under
constant pressure from anti groups saying you should not have
animals in circuses then the council just automatically takes
the easy option.
Q517 Mr Mitchell: Mr Burton, if I can?
Are they a big draw? Are they necessary?
Martin Burton: I operated a circus
for 10 years without any animals. Going back 11 years, I worked
in a circus for 10 years without any animals. I reintroduced horses
initially to my circus because I found artistically that there
is something missing from the programme. In order to create the
variety that a circus audience wants to see I felt that it was
very important to reintroduce horses. Commercially, as soon as
I did that my attendance increased 25%. I strongly believe that
there are clearly out there a lot of people who would prefer not
to see circuses with performing animals, but those people tend
not to come to circuses. If you look at the subset of people who
come to circuses, then I would say within that subset of people
who want to come to circuses in the first place 99% of them want
to see some form of animals in the circus. The key issue that
we addressed when we reintroduced, my expertise was as a clown
not as an animal person and I therefore
Mr Mitchell: We have something in common!
Chairman: You said it!
Alan Simpson: He is the honest one.
Q518 Chairman: Do you have wild animals?
Martin Burton: Sorry, if I could
just finish. I think it is important.
Q519 Chairman: Yes, sure.
Martin Burton: I brought in when
we reintroduced animals to a non-animal circus, I brought in various
animal experts and amongst other groups that I consulted with
I consulted with Born Free. We introduced a number of measures.
A very simple example would be that we put our stables at the
front of the circus so that the public can come and look at the
horses before they buy the ticket, they can look in, they can
enjoy seeing the animals rather than putting them around the back
of the circus so I could charge 20 pence to let people go and
wander round the stables afterwards. It was a key move and massively
objected to by the traditional animal trainers at the time. They
said: "You are mad to do this. You are losing out on a few
20 pences". Actually, it is a key move in making the public
comfortable with what they come and see. As well as those things,
we developed a code of conduct initially with the Home Office
and latterly with Defra, firstly just for horses and then in association
with my colleagues here we developed it for all animals. I think
that is wherenow I get to answer your questionI
think that is where animal welfare in circuses lies really. It
is perfectly possible to present animals in circuses. You have
heard from Jim Clubb that the animals benefit from the stimulation
of being handled, trained, groomed and exhibited. In terms of
the husbandry, it is simply a question of saying to people: "There
are guidelines, there are regulations. You need to follow them".
We did that. We self-imposed our guidelines and it has worked
massively with the public. Why do I not have lions and tigers:
because there is something emotive about bars. When we get to
the stage that I can show lions or tigers without needing a cage
I think the public will be satisfied, but currently the public
will not be satisfied with bars. They do not like cages.