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UK Gov’t Scorned Over Circus Policy

Argues that banning animals could violate human rights

Howls of laughter erupted in the British Parliament when environment minister Jim Paice of the ruling Conservative Party claimed that banning wild animals from circuses might be in breach of the European Human Rights Act.

The opposition Labor Party’s shadow environment minister, Mary Creagh, accused the government of “hiding behind circus owners.”

A recent poll showed that 71 percent of the British public favors a ban. In an earlier public consultation, where the government solicited views from the public, 94 percent of those who responded said they wanted circuses to be banned from using wildlife.

The whole issue came to the fore a few weeks ago with the publication of videos showing 57-year-old Annie, an elephant with the Bobby Roberts Super Circus, being violently abused. She was set free and taken to a sanctuary.

There are now no elephants left in U.K. circuses, but lions, tigers and others are still being used, and bred, as performers.

The government’s hesitation stems in part from a case being prepared by the European Circuses Association against the government of Austria, which has banned the use of animals in circuses. But proponents of a ban in Britain says this is irrelevant to what the U.K. needs to do.

Raymond Ings, who served on the government’s Zoos Forum for eight years, called the decision to do nothing “completely barking mad,” and added that circuses are “fundamentally unsuited” to keeping large animals. “There is not an animal-welfare scientist in this country saying circuses could ever provide an environment for [animals],” he said.

The Royal SPCA said it was “furious” and condemned the three big circus companies that still use wild animals.

In the United States, many circuses still have bears, tigers, elephants and other animals performing tricks. Chief among them is Ringling Bros. In this harrowing undercover video from PETA, you see elephants being “trained” with blowtorches and electric prods, and the chief trainer telling his underlings that they have to “hurt ‘em” and “make ‘em scream.”

What do you say? Should animals be allowed in circuses at all? Let us know in a comment below or on Facebook.

What you can do: In the U.K., you can lend you voice to campaign page of the RSPCA. In the U.S. and worldwide, Animal Defenders International leads campaigns to end the use of animals in circuses.