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Wild Animals in Circuses (No.2) Bill

Written evidence submitted by Animal Defenders International (ADI) (WAC10)


1. Animal Defenders International (ADI) is pleased that the UK Government has introduced the Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill and welcomes this commitment to finally end the suffering of wild animals in travelling circuses in England. ADI has investigated the use of animals in travelling circuses in the UK, Europe, and around the world for more than 20 years and has documented the day-to-day treatment of animals, animal care practices, and studied the physical and psychological effects of constant travel. Welfare is always compromised.

Executive summary

2. ADI accepts most of the definitions set out in the Bill.

3. The definition of "use" should be amended to incorporate the display of animals under section 1(2) to make clear that animals should not be on show in any form.

4. The definition for "wild animal" could be further explained to make clear that tamed wild animals are not the same as domesticated ones, as set out in the Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Act 2018.

5. A definition for "travelling circus" should be included for clarification, as outlined in the Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012.

6. Evidence and studies make clear that travelling circuses cannot provide, given the constant travel and their temporary nature, wild animals with the environment they need to keep physically and psychologically healthy.

7. There is longstanding and wide political, public and expert support for a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses.

8. While an ethical basis for the ban is justified, scientific evidence supports a ban on welfare grounds.

Section 1: Prohibition on use of wild animals in travelling circuses in England

9. Although ADI accepts the definitions in the Bill, which are described in a way that is widely understood and accepted, those for "perform and exhibit", "wild animal" and "travelling circuses" should be amended to clarify.

10. Perform and exhibit - Although the explanatory notes define the exhibition of an animal to include "the display of a lion in a cage", ADI recommends that the wording of Section 1(2) be amended to state "performs, is exhibited or displayed" or "performs or is displayed". Exhibit implies a more active and purposeful showing of an animal than display, which would make clear in the Bill that circuses must not, purposely or otherwise, display animals to the public.

11. Wild animal - Subsection 5 outlines that ""wild animal" means an animal of a kind which is not commonly domesticated in Great Britain." Whilst we agree with this definition, clarification that "domesticated" means animals physically changed by domestication due to selective breeding by humans would be helpful to address claims from circuses and circus associations that wild animals in circuses are domestic. Such statements are not in line with any scientifically recognised definition of domesticated species and it is therefore important that the definition of "wild animal" is in no way distorted. As stated by the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe "These animals have the same genetic makeup as their counterparts in the wild and retain their natural instinctive behavioural drives and needs."

12. In the Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Act 2018 additional text clarifies the term "wild animal". Under section 2 (2), it states "For the purpose of subsection (1), an animal is of a kind that is domesticated if the behaviour, life cycle or physiology of animals of that kind has been altered as a result of the breeding or living conditions of multiple generations of animals of that kind being under human control." [1]

13. The Scottish Government explains that their definition includes this description because "[w]hile it could be argued that some circus animals come from multiple generations of animals bred in circuses and that their behaviour is different to animals in the wild, there is no significant genetic, physiological or life-cycle change, and there is no change to the instinctive behaviours of such animals." [2]

14. Travelling circus - In the explanatory notes of the Commentary on the Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill under Provisions of Bill, paragraph 14, it is stated that ""Travelling circus" takes its ordinary meaning", with no further definition given. A definition of travelling circus is given in The Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012. Under Section 2, Interpretation, it is stated that:

15. ""travelling circus" means-

(a) a circus-

(i) which travels from place to place for the purpose of giving performances, displays or exhibitions, and

(ii) as part of which wild animals are kept or introduced (whether for the purpose of performance, display or otherwise); and

(b) any place where a wild animal associated with such a circus is kept;" [3]

16. ADI believes that it is important to include a definition for "travelling circus" for clarification. If the above definition is to be used, point (ii) should be amended to "as part of which wild or other animals are kept or introduced (whether for the purpose of performance, display or otherwise)" and point (b) to "any place where a wild or other animal associated with such a circus is kept" as the definition of travelling circus is and should not be specific to wild animals.

Further information

Circus animal suffering

17. It is clear from evidence and studies over more than twenty years that travelling circuses cannot provide wild animals with the environment they need to maintain health and welfare.

18. Travelling circuses are constantly on the move and, by necessity, animal accommodation must be small, lightweight, collapsible and easy to transport. For the animals, this means long periods with restricted space to move around, and barren environments with nothing to interest or engage them.

19. Animals suffer physical and social deprivation, as well as additional stressors in shows/displays, such as noise, lights, forced proximity of prey animals in sight of predators, inappropriate social groupings and public contact.

20. The stress suffered by wild animals in circuses results in abnormal, stereotypic behaviours, such as repetitive pacing, swaying and head bobbing. These are commonly seen in circus animals and indicate an animal is not coping with their environment. Such behaviours are not seen in the wild.

21. It is a myth that circus animals are trained with kindness and reward. The tools of the trade include whips, goads, shovels, pitchforks, iron bars, the ankus (bar with hook), electric shock devices, anything to hand. This has been demonstrated through studies, and investigations followed by cruelty convictions.

22. Whilst on tour, animals may be travelling whilst sick, injured, or pregnant, and forced to give birth on the road [4] . One camel with Circus Mondao gave birth and subsequently died while on tour.

ADI investigation findings

23. Many investigations and studies by ADI have exposed the suffering of animals in British circuses and reports have been presented to Defra and Parliament

24. 1992: ADI filmed the physical abuse of a llama and the deplorable conditions inside the winter quarters of British circuses were exposed.

25. 1996 – 1999: the world’s most comprehensive, independent study to date over 18 months recording 7,280 hours of observations including nearly 800 hours of videotape. The shocking abuse and severe violence against animals and extreme confinement at thirteen travelling circuses and winter quarters in the UK resulted in cruelty convictions for Mary Chipperfield Cawley for beating and kicking a baby chimpanzee; Roger Cawley (then a Government Zoo Inspector) for whipping a sick elephant; and Michael Steve Gills for sustained and repeated cruelty to elephants.

26. 2002: ADI investigators monitored Anne the elephant on tour with Bobby Roberts’ Super Circus. Investigators recorded Anne being hooked and hit with a bullhook. She spent excessive periods inside her transporter – 19 hours for a 3-hour journey and almost 18 hours for a 45-minute journey.

27. 2009: ADI investigators placed a hidden camera inside the elephant tent at the Great British Circus. Two individuals repeatedly abused the elephants who were chained to the ground by two legs for an average of 11 hours a day. A reported six welfare inspections during the tour failed to identify the cruelty and welfare deficits.

28. 2011: A camera placed by ADI investigators revealed severe abuse of Anne the elephant in the winter quarters of Bobby Roberts’ Super Circus. In the background, ponies and a camel were spat upon, kicked and punched. Whilst Anne’s abuse made the headlines, Monty the camel was also removed from the circus.

29. 2012: Bobby Roberts was convicted of cruelty to Anne for keeping her chained and failing to protect her from physical abuse. The court hearing revealed that multiple inspections of this facility had failed to identify Anne’s abuse or even that she had been kept permanently chained to the ground by two legs.

30. 2014: Lions and tigers owned by Thomas Chipperfield were trucked up to Scotland after touring with Peter Jolly’s Circus. They spent the winter months on show to the public in the same truck they travelled, and lived in, sited in a muddy field and exposed to the elements. ADI footage shows one of three tigers stereotypic, pacing back and forth, inside the ‘beastwagon’. [5]

31. 2015/6: At the winter quarters of Peter Jolly’s Circus, ADI observations revealed appalling overcrowding, fighting between animals, a worker spitting in the face of and tormenting a camel, animals crammed in a run-down building for 14 hours a day, some shut in for days on end and Government regulations ignored.

32. 2016: A further ADI investigation of Thomas Chipperfield and his lions and tigers revealed animals again displaying abnormal behaviour, demonstrating they are not coping with their unnatural environment.

Support for a ban

33. There has been public support over many years for a ban, with opinion polls consistently showing that the public remains overwhelmingly opposed to wild animal acts. In 2005 a MORI opinion poll showed 80% of people in the UK supported a ban [6] . A 2013 YouGov poll showed how the public are not only concerned about specific species like elephants and big cats being allowed in travelling circuses, but a majority were also opposed to the use of species such as snakes, camels, zebras and racoons. [7] More recently, in 2018, 76% of adults polled agreed circuses shouldn’t be allowed to use wild animals in their performances, not just in the UK but across Europe. [8]

34. The Defra public consultation on the use of wild animals in circuses found 94.5% of respondents supported a ban. [9] A similar 2015 consultation by the Scottish government showed 98% supported a ban [10] , and in Wales a 2018 consultation on draft legislation showed 97% supported legislation to make it an offence for a wild animal to be used in a travelling circus. [11]

35. The British Veterinary Association concludes that "The welfare needs of non-domesticated, wild animals cannot be met within a travelling circus - in terms of housing or being able to express normal behaviour." [12]

36. The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), has concluded "there is by no means the possibility that their [wild mammals in travelling circuses’] physiological, mental and social requirements can adequately be met." [13]

37. ‘The Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses’, a comprehensive and expert analysis of scientific evidence commissioned by the Welsh government and undertaken by Professor Stephen Harris at the University of Bristol states that "The available scientific evidence indicates that captive wild animals in circuses and other travelling animal shows do not achieve their optimal welfare requirements, as set out under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and the evidence would therefore support a ban…" [14]

38. The report, for which 658 experts and organisations were consulted, concluded that life for wild animals in travelling circuses "does not appear to constitute either a ‘good life’ or a ‘life worth living’", also noting that there is "no scientific evidence to suggest that some species of wild animals (vertebrates or invertebrates) are more suited to life in a travelling circus" xiv.

39. Over 200 UK local authorities have prohibited wild or all animal acts on public land, measures which have been in place for many years.

40. 45 nations have banned or restricted the use of either all, or wild, animals in circuses: Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Taiwan, The Netherlands and Ukraine – more than half of these bans passed since the original draft legislation was published by the UK Government.

The ethical basis for the Bill

41. The explanatory notes for the Bill outlines "The Government stated that it intended to pursue a ban on ethical grounds on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in England" due to the "the absence of any compelling scientific evidence that a ban could be justified on welfare grounds". Given the strength of public opinion on this issue, an ethically based Bill is entirely reasonable and supported by ADI – the UK banned fur farming, a much larger industry, on the same grounds – however it should be noted (as above) that the scientific evidence and expert opinion do support a ban on welfare grounds.

42. Changing attitudes have seen the public turn away from animal circuses resulting in a significant shift from the use of animals. Between 1997 and 2002, the number of circuses using animals almost halved, from 23 to 12. The number of circuses with wild animals now stands at only two. As circuses with animals have declined, those with human-only acts, have increased.

43. In addition to prohibiting the use of wild animals in travelling circuses based in England, the legislation will also prevent the import of animal acts from elsewhere. After the use of wild animals in circuses was banned in The Netherlands, Circus Belly Wien came to Ireland with three elephants, travelling some 500 miles, including a gruelling 20-hour ferry journey. The public outrage and protests resulted in the circus cutting its tour short. [15]

44. Animal circuses do nothing to teach people about the animals’ real needs and the way they live, and have no role to play in education or conservation. What the audience sees is a human caricature, with the animals performing unnatural tricks and behaviours not seen in the wild. It is entirely the wrong message for children, and displays a lack of respect for the other species that share our planet, and for the culture, communications and lifestyle of these species. 97% of respondents to the Welsh consultation agreed a ban would have a positive impact on attitudes of children and young people towards animals. xi

45. "The Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses" report notes that "Most animal performances "focus on tricks that do not reflect natural behaviours"" and concludes how "any potential educational and conservation benefits are likely to be outweighed by the negative impression generated by using wild animals for entertainment" xiv .The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe also state "there is little or no educational, conservational, research or economic benefit" that would justify the use of wild animals.

46. Travelling circuses cannot contribute to serious conservation efforts because their animals have uncertain genetic backgrounds and their lifelong proximity with humans and other species not normally met in the wild, may put wild populations at risk from cross-species infections or disease transmission.

47. Forcing animals to perform, and allowing suffering in the name of entertainment, is completely unacceptable in a modern, civilized and advanced society. Animal circus acts are a relic of the past, from a time of ignorance of the intelligence, emotions and communications of other species.

48. ADI would be happy to assist with relocation of animals affected by a ban and has extensive experience in relocating circus animals following government action. We have assisted with enforcement of legislation banning the use of animals in circuses in Bolivia, Peru and currently in Guatemala, this work includes logistical support for seizures and rescue, and relocation of animals to suitable sanctuaries.

49. The Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses is a practical and proportional measure that will ensure that animals no longer suffer physically and psychologically in travelling circuses.

50. We would be pleased to provide further information on request.

May 2019



2005 – A MORI opinion poll reveals 80% of the public want wild animals banned in circuses and 65% support a ban on all animals. Only 7% strongly oppose the idea of ban. An NOP poll in 2004 showed 63% backed banning all animals. Opposition to all animals and in particular, wild animals in circuses has remained high for over two decades. The EFRA committee reviewing the Animal Welfare Bill considers using the Bill to ban wild animal acts.

2006 – The Grand Committee reviewing the Animal Welfare Bill expresses concerns at the treatment of wild animals in circuses. Government commits to banning "certain non- domesticated species" during the third reading of the Animal Welfare Act. As a result, an amendment to include a ban on the face of the Animal Welfare Act is withdrawn. The commitment was reaffirmed during discussions in the House of Lords.
A similar move is subsequently announced in the Scottish Parliament. ADI releases ‘Animals in Travelling Circuses: the science on suffering’ report revealing animals shut in trailers and denied adequate exercise in British circuses.

2007 – Flawed methodology results in the exclusion of relevant evidence and inconclusive findings of Circus Working Group. Chairman advises "the status quo is not an option". Announcing the report Defra concludes it will never use the methodology again for such an assessment.

2009 – An ADI investigation reveals shocking abuse of elephants imported from Germany, performing at the Great British Circus. The circus had been inspected on six occasions. Detailed legal report and expert evidence sent to Minister. In a presentation to MPs earlier in the year, the circus claimed to have "no chains in the elephant tent" – the ADI evidence proves the elephants were chained for up to eleven hours every night. Following public demands, Defra launches public consultation on animal circuses.

2010 – Defra announces consultation results: 94.5% of respondents back a wild animal ban with 96% of the opinion that circuses should be prevented from obtaining further animals.
Minister announces "a new Labour Government will bring forward measures later in the year that will bring an end to this practice".

2011 – An independent parliamentary poll commissioned by ADI finds 63% of MPs would like to see a ban; only 14% disagreed.
ADI releases shocking footage of Anne, an elderly arthritic elephant, chained in a barn and physically abused. Ponies and a camel are also abused by circus workers.
A YouGov poll commissioned by ADI shows 72% of the public back a wild animal ban; only 8% are against. The Coalition Government announces plans for a licensing regime in place of ban due to potential legal challenge (legal advice later confirmed this to be incorrect). ADI publishes case studies in ‘Out of Control’ report documenting failure of inspections to protect animals.
A Government claim that a ban may be illegal under EU law (despite bans already in place in Austria, Greece and elsewhere) is debunked by the EU Commission. In a written answer by Mr Potocnik, the Commission states: "Circuses are specifically excluded from the scope of the Zoos Directive, and are not covered by any other EU legislation. Therefore, the welfare of circus animals remains the responsibility of the Member States." Expert legal advice obtained by ADI states that an outright ban on the use of wild animals in circuses would not breach the Human Rights Act or the EU Services Directive.

A debate of the Backbench MPs committee votes unanimously for motion directing the government to introduce a ban by July 2012.

2012 – Defra announces that "The Government will seek to introduce primary legislation at the earliest opportunity to achieve its much-stated desire to ban travelling circuses from using performing wild animals." Interim temporary licensing system is to be introduced. ADI and other leading animal protection groups, refuse to participate in consultation noting only 29.5% supported inspections when consulted in 2009. Circus owner Bobby Roberts is found guilty of offences under the Animal Welfare Act for suffering of Anne the elephant – based on ADI video evidence.
(The only circus prosecution under the Animal Welfare Act. Three circus individuals were convicted of multiple counts of cruelty in 1998 and 1999 following ADI investigation –Mary Chipperfield Enterprises, under the 1911 Act.)

2013 – Government publishes draft legislation to ban wild animal acts with proposed implementation December 2015; Welsh Assembly pledges support. Licensing system brought in as interim measure. EFRA Committee suggests ban only apply to big cats and elephants; ADI refutes grounds for this suggestion, with detailed report on conditions of all animals in circuses. Defra confirms government will ban all wild animals.

A YouGov Poll reveals that the public support bans on all wild animals (lions 78%, tigers 79%, bears 81%, elephants 74%, camels 79%, zebras 73%, even snakes which are less popular amongst the public and there is less awareness of their needs have 57% backing a ban) – all of the animals listed have appeared in British circuses during the last decade.

2014 – Prime Minister informs ADI deputation that he will ban wild animal acts, saying "we’re going to do it". Suffering of the last performing UK big cats revealed by ADI at Peter Jolly’s Circs. Prime Minister responds to letter from ADI and 75 high profile campaigners: "let me reassure you that it remains our position that the use of wild animal acts in travelling circuses is an outdated practice and that we will introduce a ban as soon as Parliamentary time allows". Private Members’ Bill introduced by Jim Fitzpatrick MP.

2015 – Fitzpatrick PMB blocked for twelfth and final time. General Election, 98% of MPs elected on manifesto commitments for wild animal circus ban. Both Conservative and Labour election manifestos have clear promises to ban wild animals in circuses. Results of 2014 Scottish consultation on use of wild animals published, 98% support a ban. Chipperfield big cat act tours Wales; circus prevented from performing in England due to animals’ inadequate living conditions. Welsh government commissions Professor Harris report ‘The Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses’. Welsh Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, announces "The Welsh Government believes there is no place for the use of wild animals in circuses".

2016 – Ten Minute Rule Motion introduced by Will Quince MP blocked. Private Members Bill by Kevin Foster MP introduced. Report commissioned by Welsh government finds, "all five of the ‘freedoms’ are compromised" and that circus life "does not appear to constitute either a ‘good life’ or a ‘life worth living’". Scottish government announces it will introduce bill to ban in May 2017.
ADI releases investigations of winter quarters of Peter Jolly’s Circus and Thomas Chipperfield’s lion and tiger show. The images show serious overcrowding and limited access to exercise. Peter Jolly’s worker threatening and spitting at a camel.
Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs announces the Welsh government will consult "early next year" on licensing/registration for mobile animal exhibits including travelling circuses but states "I have not dismissed the possibility of a future ban on the use of wild animals in circuses".

2017 – Over 30 countries have passed national laws or regulations banning animals in circuses (all animals, wild animals and a few prohibiting certain species). 18 EU member states have such laws including Greece, Cyprus and Malta banning all animals in circuses, and Austria, Netherlands, Croatia and Slovenia banning all wild animals in circuses.
Over 200 UK local authorities have passed ban on their land, the majority banning all animal acts with the remainder banning all wild animals in circuses. Some of these prohibitions have stood for over 30 years.

Scottish Government introduces bill to ban wild animal acts and it becomes law, effective May 2019. Kevin Foster PMB is blocked.

2018 – Ban on wild animal acts overwhelmingly supported in Senedd debate. Welsh Government announce bill to be introduced within 12 months. Britain’s last big cat trainer Thomas Chipperfield is refused licence to perform, the decision upheld following an appeal. Trudy Harrison MP introduces PMB. In UK poll 76% agree circuses shouldn’t be allowed to use wild animals not just in the UK but across Europe.

2019 – 45 countries have passed bans; UK Government indicate ban will be in place by January 2020 when temporary regulations expire and bill subsequently introduced. 97% of respondents to Welsh Government consultation agree using wild animals in circuses should be made an offence


Prepared 23rd May 2019