Wild Animals in Circuses (No.2) Bill

Written evidence submitted by Thomas Chipperfield (WAC22)

As a trainer of big cats who has previously worked under the Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses Regulations 2012 and am soon to be submitting my application for a licence under the above regulations, I wish for this attachment to serve as my written evidence submission to the call for written evidence as part of the proposed ban on the above activity in England on ethical grounds.

I would like to start by declaring my opposition to this bill. As the British Government has said, a ban on welfare grounds isn't supported by the available data, which includes Defra’s own research (see Radford Report 2007 [1] ), as well as that by Dr. Marthe Kiley-Worthington in her report which was commissioned by the RSPCA [2] , Prof. Ted Friend of Texas A&M University’s work on stereotypical behaviour in circus animals and their transportation [3] , and Dr Immanuel Birmelin’s study of the effects of travelling on non-domesticated animals in the circus [4] , the idea that ethics are separate to wellbeing is problematic, on the basis that wellbeing is the most accurate way to gauge morality. Neuroscientist and philosopher, Sam Harris, in his book, The Moral Landscape: How Science can determine Human Values, argues against the notion that the two do not overlap.

"The moment one begins thinking about morality in terms of well-being, it becomes remarkably easy to discern a moral hierarchy across human societies."

"Meaning, values, morality, and the good life must relate to facts about the well-being of conscious creatures-and, in our case, must lawfully depend upon events in the world and upon states of the human brain. Rational, open-ended, honest inquiry has always been the true source of insight into such processes." [5]

In her book, Animals in Circuses And Zoos: Chiron’s World?, Kiley-Worthington addresses the arguments made by the various Members of Parliament regarding the value of, public perception and dignity of wild animals in travelling circuses.

Regarding conservation/education:

"Circuses could have an important role to play here, particularly in relation to the elephants and some of the threatened big cats. I see this role not only in breeding the endangered species (which as in the case of the snow leopard they have already had some success with) but in raising public interest to the plight of species by demonstrating their special cognitive abilities."

Regarding dignity:

"In this way they [circuses] could have an important role to play in educating the public and heightening the respect for individual animals, their unique intelligences and amazing abilities." [6]

Further on the point of academic support of trained animals in entertainment, psychologists Keller and Marian Breland were not only known to train animals for circuses and theme parks, but also opened The IQ Zoo in Hot Springs, Arkansas, which featured trained animals, both wild and domestic, performing trained behaviours for the public, presenting their cognitive skills and plasticity. The Brelands advocated humane training, based on B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning, who also taught Marian at University.

The relevance of the previous paragraph is in how we, as a society, accept animal training for entertainment outside of the circus, yet the government’s position is that the public is in opposition to identical activities in a travelling circus, when there is no scientific basis for this concern. To call such discriminatory prohibition "ethical" is to fail to understand the meaning of ethics. If there is an ethical standard to hold that doesn't include welfare concerns, it has to be applied universally, otherwise it is nothing more than an attempt to police taste. Such a move would be in violation of the Human Rights Act 1998, which protects art, such as circuses,under Article 10 of said act. Under this act, and as citizens of a free society, circus animal trainers, in the pursuit of work and the expression of art, have the right to be protected from any majority and the government's imposition of arbitrary standards. Simply put, to force the will of any number of people onto a minority of any kind is the very definition of illiberal.

As a matter of process, the pursuit by the government of a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses over the last decade has not been carried out in a balanced way. To begin with, Defra's public consultation, which found that over 94% of respondents were in favour of a ban, was a self-report consultation (a format that is worthless as the data was not collected using accepted scientific method or statistical sampling procedures), was open to submission to anyone in the world, allowing animal rights groups the opportunity to hijack it, was open to multiple votes per individual through poor security, and only managed to get approximately 6000 responses from British residents. The remaining responses from abroad, approximately the same amount, should be discounted as the matter isn't subject to non-residents. Taking the 6000 British submissions, and comparing them to the standards by which petitions on the relevant government website are considered, a petition has to receive 10,000 responses to receive a response, and 100,000 to be even considered for debate in parliament, of which levels were reached.

Comparing the total number of responses, without accounting for the above variables, to other campaigns, such as the petition supporting a ban on the sale of fireworks to the public, which received over 307,000 signatures has not been implemented, and the public consultation on the ban of all ivory sales in the UK, which received over 71,000 responses, it is clear that the issue of wild animals in circuses is not a major concern to the British public.

Also, as a ban is being pursued on ethical grounds, it is prejudicial to not have the decision reviewed by an ethics committee.

As a final piece of evidence, I wish to quote Mike Radford, as states in his report: "[Ministers] gave commitments in parliament that a ban would be based on scientific evidence and as yet there isn't any." The fact that a ban is still being pursued is a clear rejection of previously set standards by which action would be taken.

In conclusion, I believe that the above submission demonstrates the illegitimacy of the proposed legislation.

Yours faithfully,

Thomas Chipperfield

May 2019

[1] Wild Animals In Traveling Circuses: Report of the Chairman of the Circus Working Group October 2007

[2] Animals in Circuses And Zoos: Chiron’s World?

[3] Friend, T. H. 1999. Behavior of picketed circus elephants. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 62:73-88.Friend, T. H. and M. L. Parker. 1999. The effect of penning versus picketing on stereotypic behavior of circus elephants. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 64:213-225.Gruber, T. M., T. H. Friend, J. M. Gardner, J. M. Packard, B. Beaver, and D. Bushong. 2000. Variation in stereotypic behavior related to restraint in circus elephants. Zoo Biology 19:209-221.Toscano, M. J., T. H. Friend and C. H. Nevill. 2001 Environmental conditions and body temperature of circus elephants transported during relatively high and low temperature conditions. J. Elephant Managers Association 12:115-149.Nevill, C. H. and T. H. Friend. 2003. The behavior of circus tigers during transport. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 82:329-337.Williams, J. L. and T. H. Friend. 2003. Behavior of circus elephants during transport. J. Elephant Managers Association 14:8-11.Nevill, C. H., T. H. Friend and M. J. Toscano. 2004. Survey of transport environments of circus tiger (Panthera Tigris) acts. J. Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 35:167-174.Nevill, C. H. and T. H. Friend. 2006. A preliminary study on the effects of limited access to an exercise pen on stereotypic pacing in circus tigers. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci.101:355-361.Krawczel, P.D., T.H. Friend and A. Windom. 2006. Stereotypic behavior of circus tigers: Effects of performance. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 95:189-198.

[4] Minutes of 2011 International Elephant and Rhino Conservation and Research Symposium (Page 31)

[5] The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (Pages 11 and 44)

[6] Animals in Circuses And Zoos: Chiron’s World? (Chapter 11)


Prepared 23rd May 2019