Call to ban circus animals unites Brighton and Hove MPs

Posted On 24 Jun 2011 at 4:05 am

All three Brighton and Hove MPs were united in backing the motion that turned out to be the talking point of the House of Commons yesterday (Thursday 23 June).

They all supported the resolution to demand that the coalition government ban the use of wild animals in circuses.

Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, and Simon Kirby, the Conservative MP for Brighton Kemptown, had already signed an “early day motion” (EDM) along the same lines.

EDMs are the equivalent of a petition open only to MPs.

Mike Weatherley, the Conservative MP for Hove, also signalled his support for the ban and the resolution was passed without a formal vote being held.

The Conservative MP who proposed the motion, Mark Pritchard, said that he had been threatened over the matter by someone on behalf of the Prime Minister David Cameron.

Dr Lucas spoke in the passionate debate two-hour debate in the Commons yesterday afternoon.

Cruel

She said: “We need a ban on keeping wild animals in circuses because it is cruel.

“But we also need a ban because the welfare of those animals is emblematic of the way in which we treat all animals and is symbolic of the kind of society in which we live.”

The former Member of the European Parliament (MEP) said: “The government are wrong to suggest that the European Union is somehow preventing us from dealing with the issue.

“In response to the insistence of ministers during the last debate on this subject that a legal threat in Europe had been a major factor in the prevention of an outright ban, leading animal protection organisations called a meeting with the European Commission’s head of representation at which it was confirmed once again that the issue of wild animals in circuses was a matter best left to the judgment of member states.

“It is worth reminding ourselves that it is not just because of public opinion that we need a ban, important thought that is.

“Members have spoken about the importance of science, and I have cited the evidence of the British Veterinary Association, which has stated that: ‘The welfare needs of non-domesticated, wild animals cannot be met within the environment of a travelling circus, especially in terms of accommodation and the ability to express normal behaviour. A licensing scheme will not address these issues.’

“We are not criticising individual circus owners.

“We are saying that the very nature of being in a circus means that animals’ welfare needs cannot be addressed.

Judgment

“The government’s judgment on this matter is woefully lacking. They have got it wrong on this one.

“Were the government not to act in that way (by bringing in a ban promptly), the Great British public would be shocked and any sense of democratic accountability would be undermined.

“They should respect the wishes of the vast majority of people in this country and immediately ban the cruel practice of keeping wild animals in circuses.

“Personally, I would go further and ban all animals in circuses, not just wild animals.”

She added that the Cirque du Soleil, one of the most famous and successful circuses in Europe, uses no animals at all.

Dr Lucas concluded: “The outcome that the government imply they want is for there to be no wild animals in circuses.

Leadership

“If that is the case, I call on them to show some real leadership and effect a ban now.”

There was cross-party consensus in the Commons, with just one MP speaking out against a ban.

Earlier Mr Kirby issued a statement saying: “As one of the MPs who originally pressed the government for a debate on this issue I am delighted that this issue was selected for debate.

“Should the matter go to a vote, I will be voting in support of the ban.

“Since my election I have taken a keen interest in animal welfare issues and will continue to do so.”

Mr Weatherley also issued a statement saying: “My record on animal rights speaks for itself and I am determined to put on record for the residents of Hove and Portslade that the use of wild animals in circuses is totally unacceptable.

“Just as I have consistently campaigned for hunting to be banned, I wish to place on record now a pledge to vote for the use of animals in circuses to be outlawed also.”

The resolution does not change the law – the Animal Welfare Act – but it demands that the government brings in a ban by July next year.

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