Archive for October, 2012

UK Government still in Neverland as Netherlands set to ban wild animals in circuses

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Despite exciting news reaching us that the Netherlands looks set to ban wild animals in circuses, the UK Government remains poised to introduce regulations to license wild animals in travelling circuses in England.

Over the last week, two key debates have taken place in Parliament regarding these unnecessary regulations. On 24th October, Minister for Animal Welfare, Lord de Mauley, introduced the Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012 in the Grand Committee of the House of Lords. Under tough questioning from Lord Knight of Weymouth among others, the Minister was unable to provide a satisfactory answer as to whether the regulations would actually be enforceable or not. Furthermore, he appeared content that the regulations would controversially introduce ‘two-tier’ standards for animals such as elephants. For example, under the new regulations, elephants in circuses will be subject to lower standards in relation to enclosure size, social grouping and the use of chains than the same species in a zoo.

This inconsistent and unjustifiable position appears to be based on Defra’s belief that circuses can offer wild animals more exercise and enrichment than zoos – a position that simply cannot be justified if the opinions expressed in the 2007 Government-commissioned Radford Report (the Government’s  go-to-when-it-suits-them document) are to be believed. Radford reported that “The Academic Panel concluded that there appears to be little evidence to demonstrate that the welfare of animals kept in travelling circuses is any better or worse than that of animals kept in other captive environments”.

On 29th October, in a General Committee in the House of Commons, Commons Minister David Heath confidently and mistakenly assured MPs that a ban on ethical grounds had been included in the Queen’s Speech: it had not. The same confusion that characterised the debate in the House of Lords continued, with conflicting and unclear responses from the Minister to questions from MPs including Tom Harris, Mark Pritchard, Ian Paisley Jr, Kerry McCarthy, Chris Williamson and Thomas Docherty. Minister Heath has had a rough ride recently – on badgers, ash tree fungus and more.

Overall, we remain cautiously optimistic that the Government will eventually follow through on its promise to introduce legislation to ban wild animals in travelling circuses on ethical grounds; but in the meantime, we are convinced that the measures being introduced to licence and regulate the use of wild animals in circuses until a ban is brought in are flawed and send entirely the wrong message to the industry. We await a response from the Minister to a request to meet with him alongside our partners from the RSPCA, British Veterinary Association and the Captive Animals’ Protection Society.

Now that the Netherlands looks set to join other EU Member States such Austria and Greece in introducing a ban on wild animals in travelling circuses we simply have one question: why doesn’t the UK Government listen to reason and make a ban their priority, rather than getting bogged down in an unworkable, unpopular and apparently temporary licensing regime? They claim that there may be no Parliamentary time to bring a ban in before 2015 but that claim does not stand up to scrutiny.  It seems time is not the issue – political will is.

This weekend

Saturday, October 27th, 2012

Hey everyone (in UK)

Clocks go back this weekend. That means you either a) get an extra hour in bed (tempting I know) or you could use that ‘extra time’ to go the Born Free website and do something ‘extra’ for animals!

Perhaps you’ll spend the time considering your horoscope, but have you seen our amazing moon-signs – more unique, special and personal to you?

Or you could adopt an animal (and receive a Born Free Animal Adoption pack as well as updates throughout the year)

Or maybe you’ll use the ‘extra time’ time to write letters to support our campaigns – use you ‘extra hour’ to join our Activate Team. Every letter and email makes a difference!

Don’t waste a second this weekend! Use your time to help wild animals in need!

Blogging off

Will

Round 2 to Team Badger

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Parliamentary Milestone Could Herald End of Cull Threat

Thursday 25th October 2012. Parliament. London.

The Chamber of the House of Commons, scene of some of the great political events in British history, witnessed a lively, well-informed and potentially decisive debate yesterday.

The subject? Whether or not to abandon plans to cull thousands of badgers.

The result? A resounding 147 votes in favour of cancelling the cull (already postponed to mid 2013) and just 28 votes in support of its continuation.

The press response was overwhelming and here are a few headlines:
- Commons debate, following 150,000 strong e-petition, strikes blow at Government plan to slaughter badgers – Guardian
- MP’s vote delivers blow to controversial badger cull plan – Independent
- MPs voted overwhelmingly by 147 votes to 28, in favour of a motion calling on the UK government to abandon its cull entirely – BBC News
- Government plans for a badger cull suffered a blow today – This is Gloucestershire

While non-binding, the strength of cross-party Parliamentary opinion clearly reflects the mood in the country and widespread concerns about the cull’s lack of scientific credibility.

The debate, initiated by Caroline Lucas MP (Green), saw speaker after speaker carefully articulate reasons why, at best, a cull would only slow the rate of increase of bovine TB in cattle and would not even bring about a drop in cases.

All MPs expressed their deep concern for the impact of the disease on cattle and members of the farming community, but the overwhelming majority recognised that the situation was unlikely to improve as a result of badger culling.

Born Free, a member of Team Badger, led by Queen guitar legend Brian May, feels that the result is an opportunity to bring all stakeholders together in a ‘one nation‘ approach to tackle and eradicate bTB.

Will Travers, who attended the debate for BFF, said: “I think we now have a unique opportunity for politicians of all persuasions, NGOs and the farming community to work together to speed up the EU authorizations necessary for effective cattle and badger vaccinations to be implemented as a matter of urgency. The sooner we can secure these permissions the sooner we can begin to really end the scourge of bTB without badgers being harmed. ”

He concluded on a precautionary note: “We must not get carried away but it’s a great boost to our campaign. I hope the Government will now join us and help deliver the result we all want – an end to bTB and a badger population free from persecution and fear.

Common sense prevails…for now

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

As part of Team Badger, and along with all the key wildlife conservation and protection organisations, I am delighted that the government has decided to postpone plans for the proposed pilot badger cull in the UK  - which would mean the death of thousands of badgers – until the summer of 2013. Whilst this is not the end of the battle to ban the cull once and for all, it is hopefully a major step in the right direction.

Thank you so much to the 160,000 caring citizens (many of whom are Born Free supporters) who signed the petition. Without you this would not be possible. Badgers are a significant part of the UK’s wildlife population and, although we all want to see an end to bovine TB, an unethical and ill-advised cull lacks not only scientific credibility but widespread public support. It is simply unacceptable.

Blogging off

Will

Badgers in Parliament

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

This is supposed to be the ‘listening government’ and it has shown before on matters such as selling of the National Forests that it will change course when confronted by overwhelming public opinion. On circuses, the Government bowed to the will of both the people and the great majority of Parliamentarians when it agreed to move towards a total ban on the use of wild animals in circuses by 2015.

Now it has the opportunity to jettison a policy which makes no sense, risks making the problem worse, and which is rejected by the scientific community and the public alike.

If you haven’t signed the petition then please do so and spread the word.

Yes, let’s do all we can to eradicate Bovine TB but not at the expense of badgers lives and logic.

Blogging off

Will